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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Iranian paper banned over cartoon
Man reading a newspaper in Iran
Many Iranian newspapers are state-controlled
Iran's government has suspended a state-owned newspaper after it ran a cartoon that provoked riots among the country's minority Azeri community.

The cartoon in the Iran newspaper depicted a cockroach speaking Azeri, widely spoken in north-west Iran.

Police used tear gas on angry Azeris protesting outside government offices in the city of Tabriz.

Iran's press supervisory board banned the newspaper indefinitely, and both cartoonist and editor were arrested.

The board said it had banned the newspaper for publishing "divisive and provocative materials".

Ethnic Azeris make up about 24% of Iran's population, but are regularly mocked by Iran's Persian majority.

This is an insult to all Iranians and we cannot tolerate that
Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi
Iran interior minister

However, this cartoon was drawn by an Azeri artist, Mana Neyestani.

The cartoon showed a young boy speaking to a cockroach in Persian, but the confused cockroach replied in Azeri, saying: "What?"

Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi described the cartoon as "an insult to all Iranians, and we cannot tolerate that", the country's official news agency reported.

"The law will confront this offence," he said.

The BBC's Frances Harrison, in Tehran, says it is common for reformist newspapers to be closed down and their journalists arrested, but rare for the Iranian government to take action against its own mouthpieces.

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