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Iran's President Mohammad Khatami waves to photographers upon arrival at Quirinale Presidential Palace for official talks with his Italian counterpart Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, right, in Rome Tuesday, March 9 1999. It is the first state visit to the West by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Khatami will also meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican next Thursday. Behind them are two unidentified interpreters. (AP Photo/ Massimo Sambucetti)

Iranian opposition from "across Europe" gathers in Rome: IRNA

TEHRAN, March 9 (AFP) - Members of Iran's opposition People's Mujahedeen have gathered in Rome from across Europe to protest the visit of President Mohammad Khatami, the official news agency IRNA said Tuesday.

"They are planning a protest in the centre of Rome against the Iranian head of state's visit," IRNA said, adding that members of the opposition group, which is banned in Iran, had come "from across Europe."

Their presence is "very noteworthy," IRNA said.

Several thousand Iranian dissidents are expected to demonstrate late Tuesday morning in the centre of the capital, demonstration organisers in Rome said.

Rome police said Monday they plan to create "protected roads" closed to cars and pedestrians, which will not be revealed until the last minute.

At least seven bus routes will be diverted and a number of roads in the city's historic centre will be shut on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Khatami arrived Tuesday to begin a high-profile three-day visit, the first by an Iranian head of state to a western European nation since the 1979 Islamic revoltuion.

He is scheduled to meet with Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and Pope John Paul II.


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