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Everybody’s Still Talking About It

The main contenders: Musavi and Ahmadinejad
The main contenders: Musavi and Ahmadinejad
As the televised debates between presidential hopefuls continue, moderate candidate Mir Hossein Musavi took on conservative contender Mohsen Rezai on June 4.

However, it seems that everybody in Iran is still talking about the previous debate -- the one between the incumbent, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and his main challenger, Musavi.

During the heated debate, the two rivals exchanged personal attacks, prompting many reactions, including one from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“It is not decent for a [presidential] hopeful to resort to slandering another candidate in a speech or a debate to prove himself,” warned the Supreme Leader during a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. (Read the full speech in Persian here.)

Khamenei also called on Iranians to take part in the elections, calling it a religious duty to cast a vote.

Ahmadinejad is now facing an angry backlash after his furious personal attacks on his rival and his supporters.

Musavi supporter and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has officially asked the Iranian state broadcaster for air time to defend himself against Ahmadinejad’s claims.

During the debate the president called Rafsanjani and his children corrupt. In response, Rafsanjani, who is the chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, accused Ahmadinejad of spreading lies and unfounded accusations about him.

Two other officials, former parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri and Mohsen Safaie Farahani, also challenged Ahmadinejad to face them in debates. Farahani had held high positions during Musavi’s term as prime minister in the 1980s, and Ahmadinejad accused him, among many others, of illegally gathering wealth.

Farahani hit back, saying he was ready to hold a debate with Ahmadinejad to clear his name, and warned that if Ahmadinejad refuses, “people can judge for themselves about his false and unrealistic claims.”

While Ahmadinejad has been busy verbally attacking his rivals, some of his supporters have apparently decided to take it a step further. The pro-reformist website salamnews posted photos of a woman in Tehran, identified as an Ahmadinejad supporter, tearing up Musavi’s campaign posters.

Both Ahmadinejad and Musavi supporters, mostly young men and women, took to streets on the debate night. The Ahmadinejad camp’s main slogan was “Ahmadinejad Is Our Love,” while Musavi enthusiasts chanted “Ahmadi-bye-bye!”

UPDATE: Musavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, has threatened to sue Ahmadinejad unless he formally apologizes to Rahnavard and to the Iranian nation for the accusations he directed against her during the debate.

Rahnavard said that if Ahmadinejad does not apologize within the next 24 hours for violating her family’s privacy and spreading false information about her, she will file a complaint against the president.

Ahmadinejad has cast doubts over Rahnavard’s educational credentials, accusing her of obtaining her doctorate without an entrance exam. Rahnavard said she is ready for any investigation into her degrees.

-- Farangis Najibullah