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    News & Views

    EU in guarded comment over deaths of Iranian writers

    BRUSSELS, Dec 15 (AFP) - The European Union on Tuesday called on Iran to guarantee the safety of writers and intellectuals following a recent spate of killings. In a carefully-worded communique issued by its Austrian Presidency, the EU said it acknowledged that the Iranian authorities were attempting to guarantee freedom of speech.

    "Despite these improvements, the Union is concerned about recent signs of intimidation of writers and intellectuals in Iran," the statement said.

    The EU was particularly concerned about the recent deaths of three Iranian writers, Mohammad Mokthari, Majid Sharif and Mohammed-Jafar Pouyandeh, the disappearance of Pirouz Davan and the murder of secular opposition leader Daryush Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh Eskandari.

    While recognising the Iranian government's commitment to investigating the killings, the EU also urged the authorities in Tehran to "guarantee the freedom of speech and the safety of Iranian writers and intellectuals."

    Political moderates in Iran see the killings as an attempt to destabilise the government of President Mohammad Khatami, who has promoted greater openness in Iranian society and better relations between the Islamic Republic and the west.

    Iranian officials on Tuesday blamed a foreign network for the murders and said a number of suspects have been arrested.

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