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What A Difference Four Years Can Make

The supreme leader's endorsement of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president, 2009 (top) and 2005, with former Presidents Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami in attendance.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, today formally endorsed Mahmud Ahmadinejad for a second term as president in a ceremony that was snubbed by prominent critics of the disputed election, including former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

After Khamenei gave his official seal of approval, Ahmadinejad made an unusual move: he kissed him on the shoulder.

Four years ago during the same ceremony Ahmadinejad kissed Khamenei's hand in a show of absolute loyalty.

A Tehran-based journalist said on Facebook that because of the strong backing Ahmadinejad has received from Khamenei, he should have kissed his feet.

In today's ceremony, the exchange between the two men seemed awkward (see video here).

The ceremony cleared the way for Ahmadinejad to take the oath of office on August 5 in parliament, where some of the pro-reform lawmakers have echoed the claims of fraud in the June 12 election.

Some members of the opposition are already getting ready to protest on August 5 and express their discontent over Ahmadinejad's reelection.

Iranians have posted on Facebook and blogs a picture (see top) of today's ceremony next to one from four years ago to highlight the differences, including the mood.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari