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Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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Iran making human rights progress

Thursday, April 1, 1999, GENEVA (AP) -- The Iranian government is making progress toward building a more ``tolerant society'' that recognizes human rights, a U.N. expert said today.

However, the Islamic nation should remain under special scrutiny at the U.N. Human Rights Commission for at least another year because improvements are not extensive enough, said Maurice Danby Copithorne, the U.N. specialinvestigator on Iran.

Copithorne, a Canadian lawyer, cited the killings of prominent dissident writers at the end of last year as an example of the ``unanswered questions'' about the regime.

He urged the Iranian government to speed up prosecutions of those suspected of the slayings, including intelligence ministry officials.

The killings were part of a wave of violence, triggered by the intensified power struggle between supporters of hard-liners and moderates backing President Mohammad Khatami.

Copithorne spoke to journalists before presenting his report on Iran to the 53-nation human rights commission. His 26-page report said that women and members of the Baha'i faith continued to suffer violations.

Despite the problems, Copithorne praised Khatami for trying to ``create amore tolerant society in which the rule of law plays a part and which generally recognizes human rights to a considerable degree greater than in the past.''

However, he said that it was likely to be an uphill struggle and would take years before real results appeared.

Angry that it remains under the commission's special scrutiny along with Iraq and Sudan, the Iranian government didn't invite Copithorne to visit thecountry.

The report was compiled from discussions with the authorities and other groups in the United States and Geneva.


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