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Websites backing Khatami blocked

February 22, 2009|Associated Press

TEHRAN — Iranian authorities have blocked two websites promoting the presidential bid of Mohammad Khatami, reformists said Saturday, in a first sign that powerful hard-liners might seek to thwart his challenge to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election.

Khatami declared on Feb. 8 that he would run again for president, setting the stage for a major political showdown between the popular reformist -- who made dialogue with the West a centerpiece of his eight years as president -- and the country's ruling hard-liners.

His candidacy poses a serious threat amid popular discontent with Ahmadinejad over the sagging economy. The action against the websites came as Khatami named leaders in charge of his election campaign.

The sites, www.yaarinews.com and www.yaari.ir, were set up last summer in anticipation of Khatami's candidacy. They could not be accessed from inside Iran on Saturday, though they were viewable outside the country. Khatami's own campaign site, www.khatami.ir, was still accessible.

Yaari News, which Behrouz Shojaei runs with other Khatami supporters, has reported on his candidacy, the reformist's views and growing support for his presidential bid. The other targeted site presented people's views on Khatami's candidacy.

Shojaei said the government was probably angered when the sites reported that provincial officials bused people in to attend a rally where Ahmadinejad was speaking Wednesday in the city of Yazd.

Ahmadinejad allies said the relatively large crowd demonstrated the hard-line president's popularity. It also might have been an attempt to strike a blow to Khatami, whose birthplace is Yazd.

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