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Iran: Largest Daily Under Temporary Ban

Tehran, 22 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's most widely circulated daily, "Hamshahri" (Fellow Citizen), received an order today for a temporary ban from the country's judiciary. The official IRNA news agency reported a 10-day ban has been imposed on the paper due to an apparent failure to circulate letters written by politicians responding to articles the newspaper previously carried.

The reformist daily has a circulation of more than 350,000 copies, a substantially higher figure than any other newspaper in Iran.

In Brussels today, Iran's foreign minister faced criticism from European parliamentarians over human rights protections in his country.

European deputies questioned Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi repeatedly on a reported rise in the number of public executions -- including stoning -- as well as the forced closure of several newspapers in Iran. Over 90 newspapers in Iran have been banned in the last three years.

Kharrazi told the committee of the European Parliament that reforms in the Islamic Republic must move at a realistic pace, saying rapid change in the deeply traditional culture could undermine the entire reform process. He also said the government has already advised against public executions.

Kharrazi was attending a talk on potential cooperation with the European Union, which last month launched trade talks with Iran. The EU says it will seek Iran's progress on human rights and issues related to terrorism before it signs a trade deal with Tehran.