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Reformists accuse television of trying to stop new parliament

TEHRAN, April 19 (AFP) - Iran's main reform party Wednesday accused the pro-conservative state television service of trying to stop the new reformist-dominated parliament from meeting by screening a "provocative" broadcast. Related satire here

The television authority showed late Tuesday what it described as "anti-Islamic" scenes of a recent Berlin conference attended by supporters of reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

"The provocative broadcasting of these images is aimed at preventing the new parliament from meeting, and at hampering the actions and reforms of Mr Khatami's government," the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) said in a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA.

The IIPF, headed by Khatami's brother, which was the main winner of the February parliamentary elections, accused the television management of intent "to sow discord among the political forces" of Iran and "damage national unity and security."

State television had shown Khatami supporters attacking the Islamic regime at the conference held April 7 and 8.

A commentator apologised to viewers for showing "anti-Islamic" scenes, including a woman dancing with bare arms, and shots of members of the banned armed opposition group the People's Mujahadeen.

The broadcast was strongly condemned as "psychological warfare" by Khatami's representative on the state radio and television company, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh.

"The transmission of carefully selected extracts from this conference offended the public," Aminzadeh was quoted as saying Wednesday by IRNA.

And he warned that "the management of the media bears the responsibility for the consequences of this game."

Conference organisers the Heinrich Boell Foundation had invited many close allies and supporters of Khatami, including reformist cleric Yussefi Eshkevari and investigative journalist Akbar Ganji.

Also present was Ezzatollah Sahabi of the banned but tolerated secular party, the Iran Freedom Movement.

The television showed a disruption by members of the People's Mujahadeen alleging the Khatami government was just as responsible as its predecessors for the "crimes and human rights violations" in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Participants expressed support for Khatami's reforms and condemned press censorship and political repression in Iran.

Speakers expressed indignation when the woman got up and began to dance, but most of the audience applauded, and the mere fact of being present was enough to damn the reformists in the eyes of conservatives.

Iran is in the throes of a power-struggle between conservatives and reformists in the wake of the latter's election victory. The new parliament is due to take office in May but the conservative elections watchdog the Council of Guardians has yet to declare the official results of the first round and confirm a date for a run-off second round in a number of seats.


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