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Khatami says culture minister's resignation is "under review"

TEHRAN, Dec 6 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammed Khatami affirmed Wednesday that he had not yet accepted the resignation of one of the country's leading reformers, Minister of Culture Ataollah Mohajerani.

"Mohajerani is a very dear colleague," Khatami told several thousand students at Tarbiat-e-Modaress, a university facility, in northeast Tehran.

"But as you know, he has resigned and his resignation is under review."

Mohajerani, a beacon of Iran's reformist movement, has offered his resignation twice in the last year, out of his frustration with the crack down on press freedom orchestrated by conservatives.

He first tried to resign in April, just before the conservative courts closed more than 20 mostly pro-reform newspapers and journals, depriving Khatami of one of his most effective political tools.

The president refused, but Mohajerani again submitted a letter of resignation in October, which Khatami reportedly asked him to tone down.

Mohajerani, whose ministry issues press licences, survived an impeachment scare last year when the parliament was still in the hands of conservatives angry over his "laxity" in controlling the press.

In November, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, castigated on state radio the record of Mohajerani's ministry, saying he was "not at all satisfied with the deeds and the record of the government's cultural officials."

Mohajerani has expressed his wish to stay in government alongside Khatami, despite the conservatives' efforts to destroy the reform movement associated with the president.

He has suggested the possibility of switching to the post of vice president.


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