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Iranian hard-liners shut down new year's festival

March 22, 1999 TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Revelers heading to a Persian new year's festival said they were turned away Monday, apparently because Iranian hard-liners believe the celebration evokes the country's pre-Islamic past.

Nowruz, or new year, festivities at Takht-e-Jamshid attracted about 3,000 people when they opened Sunday, the start of the new year.

Takht-e-Jamshid, about 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of the capital Tehran, is the site of ruins from the 6th century capital of Persepolis.

But people who showed up Monday for the traditional songs and dances were told the shows had been canceled. They would speak only on condition they not be identified.

The festival had been scheduled to run for three days. Earlier, Tehran radio quoted Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying: "It is not an honor to attract the people to ruins that have no spiritual significance and contain vestiges of the deposed monarchy."

In 1971, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed by the 1979 Islamic revolution, invited kings and presidents from around the world to celebrate 2,500 years of the Iranian monarchy at Takht-e-Jamshid.

The controversy over the festival was yet another sign of a power struggle between moderates allied with President Mohammad Khatami and hard-liners clustered around Khamenei.

Since the Islamic revolution, hard-liners have tried to discourage Iranians from celebrating Nowruz, which dates back to Iran's pagan past, with displays considered un-Islamic.


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