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Khatami appeals for political freedom in Iran

TEHRAN, April 15 (AFP) - Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami appealed Thursday for the development of political freedoms amid an offensive launched against his supporters by powerful conservative rivals.

"Freedom within the framework of law is a must for society and youth," Khatami said during a tour of the western province of Lorestan.

He said the Islamic's republic late founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the revered first imam in Shiite Islam, Ali, had both "underlined people's rights of freedom, self-determination, freedom of thought and expression."

"Freedom does not mean moral laxness or opportunism," Khatami said, while rejecting any abuses of freedom that "undermine" Islamic principles.

Iran's press, which has been flourishing since Khatami's election in May 1997, has come under mounting attack from conservative forces in recent months along with several supporters of the reformist president.

Earlier this month, Tehran's revolutionary court banned indefinitely the moderate newspaper Zan for publishing a new year message from Farah, the widow of the ousted shah, and accused it of committing "counter-revolutionary" acts.

And popular liberal cleric Mohsen Kadivar appeared before a special court for clergy on Wednesday charged with spreading propaganda hostile to the Islamic regime.


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