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Iranian parliament to debate culture minister's impeachment next week

TEHRAN, April 22 (AFP) - The Iranian parliament said Thursday it would hear an impeachment motion against moderate Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani next week as the minister lashed out at the move as "totally political."

Mohajerani will be called before all 270 deputies next Wednesday to defend himself against a censure motion launched by 31 conservative MPs.

The minister, who is also government spokesman and a political ally of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, has been charged with "laxity" regarding "journalistic and artistic activities, and the defense of Islamic values."

The parliament will take a confidence vote after Mohajerani's appearance, and if he loses he will be forced from office immediately.

Mohajerani denounced the charges as a purely political ploy doomed to fail.

"I consider the motion to impeach me to be a totally political move. Experience has shown that such moves will backfire and only add to the popularity of the person put under pressure," he told the English-language Iran News.

Mohajerani was accused of "closing his eyes to subversive activities" in the press that "blatantly propagandize monarchy, corruption and prostitution" while attacking the "revolution, the Islamic Republic and its fundamental principles."

Some of the charges refer to the case of Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, whose moderate daily Zan was suspended two weeks ago for publishing a new year's message from ex-empress Farah Diba.

But he is also being criticised by conservatives for allowing moderate newspapers to promote the resumption of relations with the United States.

The impeachment motion comes after several months of mounting pressure from the hardline wing of the Shiite clergy and conservatives against the moderate faction of the Islamic regime, and the moderate press on Thursday urged support for Khatami.

"Now more than ever the president needs the support and solidarity of his partisans," in particular "the youth and the powerful student movement," the Khordad paper said.

The pro-government Sobh-e-Emrouz accused the conservative MPs of "directly attacking Khatami."

The president himself came to his lieutenant's defense on Wednesday, calling Mohajerani a man of "culture and wisdom" and said he hoped a parliamentary majority would "line up behind the government."


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