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Iran Bans TV Chief From Meetings

January 19, 1999, TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The head of Iran's state television has been banned from attending Cabinet sessions for airing a broadcast that blamed supporters of the country's moderate president for a string of recent slayings, newspapers reported Tuesday.

Ataollah Mohajerani, minister of culture and the government's spokesman, demanded a public apology from Ali Larijani, who heads the country's radio and TV network.

``Larijani should offer an apology to the president and the people before he is allowed to participate in the Cabinet meetings again,'' the English-language Iran News quoted Mohajerani as saying.

Larijani is not a minister but sat in on Cabinet sessions in his capacity as head of the broadcast network.

Recent revelations that a rogue group inside the Intelligence Ministry was involved in the slayings of five dissidents and writers late last year have shaken both hard-line and moderate factions inside Iran's Islamic government.

Both sides, locked in a bitter power struggle, have tried to distance themselves from the killings, which are widely blamed on hard-liners opposed to President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate.

In a broadcast on state television last week, Ruhollah Hosseinian, a former deputy intelligence minister, said the killings were carried out by Khatami's supporters.

The statement outraged moderates, who attacked Larijani, a hard-liner, for allowing the program.

However, a three-member committee concluded Tuesday that Larijani was not aware of the content of Hosseinian's comments before they were aired, Tehran radio reported.

The committee called for unspecified disciplinary measures against those directly involved in producing the show and recommended tighter supervision of programming. It was not clear what effect the committee's conclusion would have on the Cabinet ban.

Following the committee's findings, Khatami called for protecting freedom of speech.

``We all should safeguard this divine gift and avoid transforming it into the arena of defamation, baseless and unsubstantiated judgments, slander and accusations,'' he was quoted as saying by the radio.


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