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Iranian Leader Accepts Resignation of His Liberal Culture Minister

December 15, 2000|From Times Wire Services

TEHRAN — President Mohammad Khatami has accepted the resignation of liberal Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, the man behind the explosion of free press and arts in Iran, state television said Thursday.

The official Tehran television said Khatami immediately appointed Mohajerani as chairman of the International Center for Dialogue Among Civilizations, a government-run think tank, and named Mohajerani's deputy, Ahmad Masjed Jameii, as acting culture minister.

Mohajerani, under fierce attack by Islamic hard-liners for his tolerant cultural policies, handed in his resignation months ago, but the president had refused to accept it.

Political sources close to Mohajerani said the president had given in to mounting pressure from conservatives, chiefly from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.

But the official Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA, quoted Khatami as saying Mohajerani's departure would not derail the drive for cultural openness.

The hard-line judiciary has closed more than 30 independent publications and jailed several liberal activists since April after a bitter denunciation by Khamenei of the reformist media as the "bases of enemies."

Mohajerani, 46, said in his resignation letter that he found work in the current climate unbearable.

"The conditions and requirements that have taken shape in the realms of art, culture and the intellect have made it impossible for me to continue my duties," he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

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