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IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE'S SIMPLY EXHAUSTED

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday he is suffering from exhaustion and two allies said he was suffering under the strain of his job, in a rare disclosure apparently designed to combat rumors the hard-line leader is more seriously ill.

A parliament member who confirmed Ahmadinejad's illness accused opponents of using it as an excuse to cast doubt on whether the increasingly unpopular president will run for a second term next year.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, every Iranian president has been re-elected, except the first one, Abolhasan Banisadr, who fled the country in 1981.

The months ahead are critical for Ahmadinejad if he wants to try to rebuild his political base and rebut critics who point to his unfulfilled campaign promises.

With more than 10 percent unemployment and 30 percent inflation, Iran was unable to bask in record-high oil prices this year. And now with oil prices falling, Iran is certain to face a budget squeeze that could severely complicate Ahmadinejad's last months before he faces re-election.

Ahmadinejad, who turns 53 today, is also confronting questions about his uncompromising stance over Iran's nuclear program, which has soured international relations. The United Nations has approved three rounds of sanctions against Iran since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

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