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Khamenei gives unprecedented support to Khatami

August 24, 1999 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader gave unprecedented support to President Mohammad Khatami on Tuesday, saying he was capable of handling all aspects of government.

The tribute from the hard-line Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the reformist president came weeks after conservatives attacked Khatami for his initial tolerance of the mass student protests last month.

"Thank God, Mr. (Mohammad) Khatami, the honorable and dear president, is competent and qualified to handle all government responsibilities," Khamenei told a Cabinet meeting according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Khamenei called on government officials to put factionalism aside and fully back Khatami's policies, the agency said in a report received in Dubai. Since he took office in 1997, Khatami has been locked in a power struggle with Iran's hard-line clerics over democratic reforms.

Conservatives have used their position in the judiciary to close several moderate newspapers and arrest journalists. When pro-hardline vigilantes and police stormed a Tehran student hostel on July 9, killing one person and seriously wounding 20 others, they provoked a week of mass protests in the capital and eight other cities.

The government took no action for several days against the protesters -- many of whom chanted support for Khatami and called on Khamenei to quit. It then banned the demonstrations and instructed the police to disperse the protesters.


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