Iran's supreme leader formally endorsed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for second term as president on Monday in a ceremony that sought to portray unity among the country's leadership but was snubbed by prominent critics of the disputed election.
After Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave his official seal of approval, he allowed Ahmadinejad to kiss his robe on his shoulder -- a noticeably more restrained gesture than four years ago when Ahmadinejad kissed the leader's hand and cheeks in a sign of closeness and loyalty.
The meeting cleared the way for Ahmadinejad to take the oath of office Wednesday in parliament, where many pro-reform lawmakers have echoed the claims of fraud in the June 12 election.
The ceremony with Khamenei showed vividly the deep political divides confronting Ahmadinejad and his backers among the ruling clerics. The event was boycotted by two former presidents -- Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami -- as well as defeated pro-reform candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, state media reported.
Iran's main state TV channels did not offer live coverage of the ceremony in an apparent effort by the country's Islamic rulers to avoid emphasising the boycotts to domestic audiences. But Iran's state-funded channels in Arabic and English broadcast extensive images of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad -- possibly seeking to display a sense of high-level solidarity on the international stage.