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12 Jun

TOO CLOSE TO CALL

Heavy turnout predicted as Iranians vote

By ANNA JOHNSON and BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writers Anna Johnson And Brian Murphy, Associated Press Writers, June 12, 2009

Article

TEHRAN, Iran – Iranians packed polling stations from boutique-lined streets in north Tehran to conservative bastions in the countryside Friday with a choice that’s left the nation divided and on edge: keeping hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power or electing a reformist who favors greater freedoms and improved ties with the United States.

Crowds formed quickly at many voting sites in areas considered both strongholds for Ahmadinejad and his main rival, reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s and has become the surprise hero of a powerful youth-driven movement. At several polling stations in Tehran, mothers held their young children in their arms as they waited in long lines.

The turnout was massive — with some officials predicting a record-breaking surge to the polls — and voting was extended by one hour to 7 p.m. (1430 GMT). In previous major elections in Iran, the polls stayed open up to an additional three hours.

There were no reports of unrest or serious problems at the polls. But a top Mousavi aide, Ali Reza Beheshti, said some polling stations in northwestern and southern provinces ran out of ballots, claiming it was a “deliberate attempt by the government to keep people from voting.”

“I hope to defeat Ahmadinejad today,” said Mahnaz Mottaghi, 23, after casting her ballot at a mosque in central Tehran.

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