What was more awkward came when Ahmadinejad leaned forward to kiss Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But the supreme leader raised his left hand and momentarily stopped Ahmadinejad, who spoke a few words and then kissed Khamenei's robe.
Four years ago it was different, Khamenei allowed him to kiss his hand in a show of profound loyalty. Then Khamenei drew him close and kissed him on both cheeks with a benevolent smile. This time, Ahmadinejad moved toward Khamenei but was offered only the chance to kiss the leader's robe — a gesture of respect but far more restrained than four years ago.
"It's as if Khamenei was saying, `Hey, listen. Don't think that we are this close team we once were,'" said Patrick Clawson, deputy director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
There were also those who ignored the ceremony among them were top critics of the election outcome and the fierce crackdowns. The absentees included runner-up Mir Hossein Mousavi and another pro-reform candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, and two former presidents: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Also reported missing where any members from the family of the patriarch of the Islamic Revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose portrait looked over the hall in central Tehran.
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