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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moderate Stuns Iran In Presidential Win

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's president-elect paid his respects Monday at the grave of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pledging to continue the path of the late revolutionary leader.

Mohammad Khatami, a moderate cleric who gained a stunning victory in Iran's first free election since the 1979 revolution, was welcomed by Khomeini's grandson, Hassan, to the golden-domed mausoleum that is a place of pilgrimage for millions every year.

"By the blessing of the revolution the people of Iran have started a new chapter in their history," said Khatami, who won 20.9 million of the record nearly 30 million ballots cast. The victory was seen as a signal for a milder form of Islam.

Referring to the record number of voters who turned out at the polls Friday, Khatami told Tehran radio it showed that Iranians "feel that this country is theirs, and it is up to them to decide its fate.''

Khatami met late Sunday with his political ally President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who will step down in August after two, four-year terms.

Calling him a "great warrior,'' Khatami said he would make use of Rafsanjani's "valuable experience and guidance.''

Rafsanjani -- who remains a political force -- told reporters Sunday that his own liberal faction would be a partner in Khatami's moderate government.

The 54-year-old president-elect placed a flower wreath at the shrine and was allowed to enter the glittering metal cage around the grave as a sign of honor.

The election was a crushing defeat for the hardline clergy, who had thrown their considerable weight behind Khatami's main challenger, Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri.

The hardliners have enforced strict Islamic rule which bans satellite TV dishes and requires that women cover themselves from head to foot in public. The election evolved into a choice between more or less Islamic restrictions.

Khatami said in a statement Sunday that "all forces, all thoughts, opinions and skills'' were welcome.

The success of Khatami's expected reforms will depend on support from the powerful supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Majlis, or parliament.

Khamenei, who has final word on all political decisions, gave his tacit support to Nateq-Nouri in the election. But he met the president-elect Sunday, and urged all elements in society to support him.