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Ahmadinejad under fire for embracing his old Teacher

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Ahmadinejad under fire for embracing his old teacher.

Last Update:* Wednesday, May 2, 2007. 9:02pm (AEST)

Ahmadinejad under fire for embracing his old teacher

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been accused of indecency after he publicly embraced and kissed on the hand an elderly woman who used to be his schoolteacher.

At a ceremony on Tuesday ahead of Iranian teachers' day, Mr Ahmadinejad was photographed and filmed by state media stooping to kiss the woman's hand and then clasping her arms in an embrace.

The ultra-conservative Hezbollah newspaper, which is not related to the group in Lebanon of the same name, criticised him on the front page.

"The Muslim Iranian people have no recollection of such acts contrary to sharia law during Islamic rule [since the 1979 revolution]," it said.

"This type of indecency progressively has grave consequences, like violating religious and sacred values."

The elderly woman, who was not named, wore thick gloves along with a headscarf and long black coat, meaning that Mr Ahmadinejad avoided any skin contact.

But his action raised eyebrows because according to sharia law, it is forbidden for a man to have any physical contact with a woman to whom he is not related.

While Mr Ahmadinejad is considered an ultra-conservative in the West, this is not the first time he and his Government have been attacked by hardline elements even further along the spectrum.

He courted controversy when he unsuccessfully proposed women be allowed to attend football matches, and one of his vice presidents came under huge pressure last year after allegedly watching a woman dance at a ceremony in Turkey.

But other hardline publications published the images of the latest incident without further comment. "A kiss on the hand for the teacher," was the headline in the government daily Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad's action appeared to be a public gesture of humility before Iranian teachers, who have publicly protested against low salaries and accused the Government of not doing enough to improve their work conditions.


© 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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