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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Iranian protest at press closures
Tehran University
Students in Tehran read about the closures in a paper that wasn't closed
Students in Iran have held a rally in protest at the decision of the conservative-dominated press court to close 13 pro-reform newspapers.

But the students from the main campus of Tehran University respected the call from reformist leaders for restraint in the face of what they called provocative actions.

The press court closed the newspapers earlier this week in a move which correspondents say is aimed at the heart of President Khatami's efforts to liberalise Iranian society.

Students at some other Iranian universities registered their protest by boycotting classes. There have been no reports of violence or disturbances.

The boycott was partially successful, with some classes held without disruption.

Disciplined restraint

BBC Tehran correspondent Jim Muir says students and other supporters of the reformist movement have shown a high degree of discipline and awareness in following the urging of their leaders not to take to the streets or to react in any way which might prompt a violent crackdown.

At one university campus, students had begun producing their own improvised newsletter in what may be an indication of what is likely to happen if the reformist press were to be suppressed altogether.

Tehran University
The writing on the wall: On the left with the black band, the closed reformist papers. papers

The Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), a reformist group which had its Mosharekat newspaper banned, called for restraint.

The IIPF urged "young people and especially students to restrain themselves in the face of provocations whose sole aim is to create social tension".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamdi-Reza Asefi played down the crackdown on the press and rejected anticipated foreign criticism.

"Freedom of expression and the press are the fundamental rights of Iranian citizens and are assured by the constitution. The existence of different tendencies in Iran prove the success of the Islamic republic in building a pluralist and democratic society," Mr Asefi said.

Weathering the storm

Despite the closure of 13 reformist daily newspapers, several others survived the ban and are still publishing. They have had to increase their print run and took to producing several editions.

Tehran University
Protest at the gagging of the press:This student is wearing one of the banned papers as a hat

Our correspondent says the strategy of the reformists is clearly to batten down their hatches and ride out the storm until the end of May, when the new, reformist-dominated, parliament should be inaugurated.

Tension and uncertainty over that may now be reduced with an announcement from the right-wing Council of Guardians finally setting 5 May as the date for the second run-off round of voting for seats undecided in the February general elections.

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