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Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK

World: Middle East

Iran closes liberal newspaper

The crisis over Afghanistan may have given the hardliners their opportunity

The judicial authorities in Iran have ordered the closure of a newspaper that supports the moderate President, Mohammed Khatami.

Jim Muir: "Tous had been outspoken in blaming government policy"
A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said that the Tous newspaper had been closed down for publishing articles against the national "security and general interests".

The paper's editor and publisher are to appear before a revolutionary court in Tehran.

Eyewitnesses said that the security forces entered the printing press area of the newspaper to prevent the publication of Wednesday's edition.

Conservative attack

The ban comes a day after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, accused unnamed publications in Iran of undermining people's faith and the Islamic revolution.

Second closure

[ image: Ayatollah Khamenei, speaking to the Revolutionary Guards, attacked newspapers]
Ayatollah Khamenei, speaking to the Revolutionary Guards, attacked newspapers
Tous began publication about two months ago as the successor to another daily newspaper, Jameeh.

Jameeh had been shut down for allegedly misrepresenting the comments of a senior Revolutionary Guard.

Under both titles, the paper had been seen as symbol of increased press freedom since the election of President Khatami last year.

The paper's bold defence of freedoms has earned it many enemies among the conservative establishment.

Target for the hard-liners

Correspondents say the paper angered the conservative authorities on Monday by printing the views of a senior Iranian cleric, the late Ayatollah Abol-Qasem Khoei, questioning the concept of the rule of the Islamic jurist, the backbone of the Islamic Republic.

A BBC correspondent in Tehran, Jim Muir, says the paper's generally progressive positions on many domestic and foreign issues had made it a target from the outset for hardliners within the Islamic power system.

Tous's editor, Mahmoud Shams, was beaten last month by militants allied with the hard-liners.

Our correspondent says the crisis over Afghanistan may have provided a useful opportunity for them to do something they have long wanted to do.

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