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Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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Mohajerani to quit after conservative pressure

TEHRAN, Oct 3 (Reuters) - An Iranian reformist minister, long under siege by hardline conservatives who consider him too liberal, has handed in his resignation to President Mohammad Khatami, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

But Khatami has told Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani he must re-draft and moderate his 50-page resignation before it can be accepted, said the source, who declined to be named.

Mohajerani's action is nevertheless a blow to Khatami, who has been on the defensive against a conservative campaign beginning in April in which some 25 newspapers supportive of his reforms have been banned and a number of journalists jailed.

Surviving conservative newspapers have long been baying for Mohajerani's blood, saying his ministry was to blame for allowing the liberal press to briefly flourish and not stamping out ``Westoxification'' in books and Iranian cinema.

Khatami has long tried to shield Mohajerani from the attacks.

``He handed in his resignation. The letter was 50 pages long citing all the different issues which have forced him to resign,'' said the official. ``But it wasn't accepted in that form and he was told to re-draft it.''

Khatami was swept to office in 1997 polls promising wide-ranging reforms in the Islamic Republic. But with little to show for those promises, and elections looming next May, Khatami is squeezed between the conservative establishment and a youthful constituency impatient for change.

The official said that Mohajerani planned to re-submit his resignation to the president after an Islamic conference of ministers of tourism in the central city of Isfahan that ends on Wednesday.


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