TEHRAN, June 12: Opposition challenger Mirhossein Mousavi claimed victory against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran’s election on Friday, but the state news agency said the hardline incumbent was the winner.
“I am the definite winner of this presidential election,” Mr Mousavi, a moderate, told a news conference in Tehran, pre-empting official announcements.
Less than 40 minutes later, the official news agency IRNA said Mr Ahmadinejad had secured victory. “Doctor Ahmadinejad, by winning most votes at the 10th presidential election, has secured his victory,” IRNA said.
A bitterly fought campaign has generated intense excitement inside Iran and provoked strong interest around the world, with policymakers looking for signs of a change of approach by Tehran, whose ties with the West worsened under Mr Ahmadinejad.
Long queues had formed at voting centres and officials said they expected a turnout of about 70 per cent or more. A victory for Mr Mousavi could help ease tensions with the West, which is concerned about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and improve chances of engagement with US President Barack Obama, who has talked about a new start in ties with Tehran.
Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, said many people had not been able to cast their ballots even after voting was extended by four hours.
Earlier, in Washington, Mr Obama said his administration was excited about the debate taking place in Iran and he hoped it would help the two countries to engage “in new ways”.—Reuters