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Khatami calls for greater tolerance

TEHRAN, May 11 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami appealed to the various political factions in the country on Tuesday to stop viewing each other as "rivals" and to display greater tolerance.

"The various factions should refrain from making certain issues bigger than they are in order to drive out their rivals from the scene," the official IRNA news agency quoted Khatami as saying during a meeting with senior clerics in Tehran.

"The existence of different views, tastes and tendencies among people is a god given trait," he said. "The forming of different factions and groups lies in human nature."

Khatami, a moderate cleric elected president in a landslide in May 1997 against a conservative opponent, described the need to accept criticism as "a prerequisite for political progress."

"We should exercise tolerance and consider criticism as a virtue, not a vice," he said.

"The government, as well as the president himself, has been subject to the most criticism ... but we have tolerated it and must aim at being a symbol of tolerance for the people.

"Unfortunately certain misinformed individuals consider political development synonomous with spreading laxity and freedom, disorder and anarchy," IRNA quoted Khatami as saying.

Khatami also urged people to "look for our internal shortcomings in cases of failing," and to refrain "from blaming the opponents for all the problems the country is facing."

Khatami's remarks came nearly a week after the jailing of moderate former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, whose trial for corruption triggered heated political debate in the country.

Karbaschi went to prison on Thursday to begin serving a two-year jail term for corruption and mismanagement.

He was convicted last year in a case which he, and many officials, claimed was a political frame-up by his conservative opponents.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday turned down an appeal by 146 MPs for a pardon for the imprisoned former mayor, a leading supporter of Khatami.


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