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Ahmadinejad To Address Iran Stadium Gathering

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18.
TEHRAN -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was expected to address a large gathering at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, which can seat more than 100,000 people.

The president’s office says the April 18 event is meant to thank an organization that facilitated cultural activities and travel inside Iran during the two-week Norouz holidays marking the Iranian New Year.

Ahmadinejad’s critics have accused the president of seeking to use the occasion to influence the June 14 presidential election.

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They say Ahmadinejad will use the event to informally launch the presidential candidacy of his close aide, Esfandiari Rahim Mashaei.

Many believe Ahmadinejad is grooming Mashaei as his successor.

Ahmadinejad’s second term in office ends in four months, and the country’s constitution bars him from running for a third term.