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Iran: Pro-Reform Newspaper Editor Vows to Appeal Shutdown Order - 2002-07-13

An Iranian court has shut down a pro-reform newspaper for violating a ban on reporting about the resignation of one of the country's top reformist clerics. The editor of the newspaper Azad vows to appeal the order.

The court issued the ban on Thursday to stop newspapers from commenting on the resignation of Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri. Azad newspaper editor Bijan Safsari told reporters in Tehran he only heard about the court's gag order after his paper had been printed.

The pro-reform paper had published reactions in support of the resignation in its Thursday edition. Now Mr. Safsari says the court has shut down his newspaper.

He says some conservative newspapers that published comments criticizing the dissident cleric have not been ordered to close. He says he will appeal the ruling.

Even Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted that he agreed with some of Ayatollah Taheri's criticisms, saying he also has called for programs to fight poverty and corruption. On Friday he called for calm in an effort to ease political tensions.

Ayatollah Taheri resigned on Tuesday from his position as prayer leader in the southern city of Isfahan.

In his resignation letter, he sharply criticized Iran's clerical hardliners for blocking President Mohammad Khatami's reform efforts, a complaint echoed by Mr. Khatami's supporters

The popular cleric also cited the wide gap between rich and poor, incompetent leadership and growing social problems as reasons for his resignation. Iran's official news agency reported the resignation was for age and health reasons.

More than 100 members of Iran's parliament have signed a letter of support for Ayatollah Taheri and said they Iranians will listen to him