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New Iran leader is ayatollah 'puppet': Canada's Baird

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Canada's top diplomat accused newly-elected Iranian president Hassan Rowhani on Monday of being a "puppet" of the Islamic republic's religious leader.

The moderate cleric's victory raised hopes of eased ties with Western nations after years of tensions, but he used his first news conference to rule out a halt to Iran's controversial enrichment of uranium.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the Iranian regime "carefully managed the selection of presidential candidates by allowing only regime-friendly candidates to seek the presidency," adding that none of them represented a "real alternative for Iranian voters."

"Given the regime's manipulation of the collective will and democratic process, the results of the June 14 vote are effectively meaningless," Baird said in a statement.

"The person tagged to replace (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad will simply be another of Ayatollah Khamenei's puppets in the tragic and dangerous pantomime that is life for all Iranians."

Western powers and Israel worry that Iran's nuclear program aims to develop an atomic bomb, but Tehran insists it serves only peaceful purposes.

Rowhani, 64, was helped to victory in Friday's election with the backing of reformists, with thousands of people taking to the streets to celebrate and world powers expressing cautious optimism.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130617/new-iran-leader-ayatollah-puppet-canadas-baird