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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Iranian speaker backs Montazeri's release
One of the most senior political figures in Iran, the parliamentary speaker, Mehdi Karubi, has spoken out publicly against the house arrest of a leading dissident cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.

Speaking at a press conference in Teheran, Mr Karubi said the restrictions should be lifted in stages.

Mr Montazeri, who is 80 years old, was placed under house arrest in Qom in 1997 after he criticised the power of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

There have been repeated calls for his release, but correspondents say Mr Karubi is one of the most significant Iranians to support such a move.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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