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Nateq-Nuri echoes Khamenei's call for end to faction fighting

TEHRAN, Oct 3 (AFP) - Iran's conservative leader, parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, Sunday echoed calls by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for an end to the increasingly bitter faction fighting with reformers.

"Just as the leader said, the country needs unity in what it says and what it does," Nateq-Nuri told Iran's conservative dominated parliament.

"The main forces (factions) must rotate around the basic principles of the regime, the guiding line of the Islamic republic drawn by (its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini, and obey its successor (Khamenei)," he told MPs.

The speaker, who lost 1997 elections to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, called for "unity and reconciliation" between Iran's conservative and reformist factions.

He echoed Khamenei's call on Friday for no one -- even clerics -- to seek to take the law into their own hands in response to perceived attacks on the Islamic religion.

"No person should act arbitrarily and the members of the clergy, as well as all other persons in society, must obey the supreme leader," Nateq-Nuri said.

In a keynote sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers here on Friday, Khamenei warned against "any arbitrary, individual or overly emotional reaction" to a play published in a student magazine here which had provoked outrage Iran's conservatives.

"Nobody has the right to react on the basis of feelings and assume the right to defend the values of Islam," Khamenei said in his sermon marking the 100th anniversary of Khomeni's birth.

"I legally and religiously forbid any act against the authors of the offence against the 12th imam," he said in reference to the play in the campus magazine Moj (Wave) which is accused of mocking the belief of Iran's Shiite Muslims in a hidden 12th imam or Mahdi who will return to usher in an age of justice.

Publication of the "anti-Islamic" play has led to a string of demonstrations by conservatives and hardliners in which they have called for the play's authors to be hanged and for an intensified clampdown on Iran's fledgling reformist press.

Reformers have countered that the play was a deliberate ploy which played into the hands of the conservatives by tarnishing Khatami's policy of opening up the media -- the centrepiece of his reforms.

"It seems as though a certain group wants to create a haze across the country with a particular ambition," the reformist president charged last week without elaborating on the identity of the group he suspected was behind it.


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