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Khatami underlines commitment to women's sports

TEHRAN, Feb 10 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami inaugurated a vast new sports complex for women and children on Wednesday, as part of his reformist government's commitment to get women out of the home. "Iranian society is more than ever in need of vitality," said Khatami, whose election victory in 1997 was mainly due to the votes of women and youngsters.

"Our requirements definitely outsrip our means but we must do something about it," he admitted as he inaugurated the 85,000 square metre (more than 900,000 square feet) complex in one of Tehran's poorer districts.

The centre will allow women and children to take part in sports ranging from shooting, gymnastics and table tennis, to volleyball, basketball and swimming.

Iran's 20-year-old Islamic regime has restricted women's outdoor sports to activities that allow them to keep their hair and bodies fully covered in accordance with Islamic modesty rules.

But women seem to have gained greater confidence since Khatami's election.

Faezeh Hashemi, MP and daughter of Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has provoked the ire of conservatives for encouraging women to take up cycling and football.

Hardline papers have expressed concern that women playing football in shorts and tops will expose themselves to the illicit gaze of men.


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