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BBC Tehran correspondent Jim Muir
"The newspapers were among the most important in the reformist stable"
 real 28k

Friday, 28 April, 2000, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
Iranian president calls for calm

President Khatami says Iran is entering a new chapter
Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has called on citizens to exercise self-restraint in times of crisis, as campaigning for the second round of parliamentary elections begins.

His remarks came after two more pro-reform newspapers were banned by the Iranian press court, bringing the total closures to 16 in one week.

The Iranian president was shown on TV addressing members of Tehran's Islamic City Council.



Freedom, sovereignty of people, popular participation and civil society have their roots in the Islamic revolution

President Khatami
He said the Islamic revolution was "the beginning of a new chapter" in the life of the Iranian people, but reminded them that they should not isolate the religious community.

He said freedom could only be achieved on the basis of religious and moral principles and people should act within the framework of Islamic law.

"Freedom, sovereignty of people, popular participation and civil society have their roots in the Islamic revolution," said Mr Khatami.

Closures

The government's continuing crackdown on the liberal press includes the closures of Mosharekat, a leading daily newspaper published by Mohammad Reza Khatami - the brother of the president - and the outspoken Sobh-e Emrouz.

One conservative weekly publication has also been suspended.


Women
Some newspapers continue to sell despite the ban
The closures are thought likely to weaken President Khatami's ability to win supporters in voting for seats undecided in February's elections, in which the reformist camp gained ground.

The conservative-dominated press court said that the two latest liberal newspapers to be closed had violated press laws.

The court warned Mohammad Reza Khatami on Wednesday that it would ban Mosharekat unless it discontinued changes to its format and content.

Mosharekat is the organ of the main reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Sobh-e-Emrouz had already been banned with others on Monday, but the suspension was lifted almost immediately.

It increased its print run to almost two million to make up for the banned publications.

Recriminations

Correspondents say the current bans are aimed at the heart of President Khatami's efforts to liberalise Iranian society.


Tehran University
Closed reformist papers, on the left with the black band
The closures have left almost no reformist daily newspapers on the streets.

The moves have prompted an open exchange of recriminations between different authorities.

The Ministry of Islamic Guidance, which has responsibility for the press, had earlier issued a statement publicly criticising the closures and impugning their legality.

The judiciary has now hit back, taking the ministry to task for supporting what it called publications that had been blatantly breaching Islamic principles.

Khamenei's support

The judiciary also appears to have the support of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has endorsed the crackdown and urged his supporters not to remain silent.


Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly attacked liberal press
He said in a speech to leading politicians that the pro-reform press was making mountains out of molehills and "turning public opinion against Islam, the revolution and the Islamic system".

"The various streams of opinion faithful to Islam and the revolution must state their positions and condemn those who, inside and outside the country, want to block the revolution, the way of Imam Khomeini, the pre-eminence of the guide, and the constitution under cover of reforms."

The crackdown on the liberal press provoked student protests in Iran earlier this week.

Students at some universities registered their protest by boycotting classes, but there were no reports of violence or disturbances.

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