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Iran Shuts Newspaper For Publishing Baha'i Temple Photo

Iran's "Khabar" daily
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A popular conservative newspaper critical of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has been closed down for carrying a photograph of a temple of the banned Baha'i faith, media reported today.

At the same time, the publishers of another daily, "Khabar," linked to a conservative rival of Ahmadinejad, have decided to stop publication due to unspecified pressure, the "Etemad" newspaper said.

"Etemad" quoted Deputy Culture Minister Mohammad Ali Ramin as saying both newspapers had violated media laws and had received warnings from the Islamic republic's press supervisory board.

Government opponents may see such action by the authorities as an attempt to muzzle criticism of the hard-line president after his disputed reelection in June, which plunged Iran into months of political turmoil.

Earlier in November, the press supervisory body banned the publication of a leading business daily, "Sarmayeh," which has been critical of the government's economic policies.

Hamshahri, which belongs to the Tehran municipality and is Iran's highest-circulation newspaper, was closed down after it carried a front-page advertisement for tourism travel to India showing a Baha'i temple of worship, media said.

Iran's Shi'ite Muslim religious establishment considers Baha'i an heretical offshoot of Islam.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a pragmatic conservative, is seen as a political rival of Ahmadinejad. Khabar is seen as close to parliament speaker Ali Larijani, another conservative rival of the president.

Exiled Baha'i leaders allege that hundreds of followers of their faith have been jailed and executed in Iran in the past three decades. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.

The Baha'is revere the 19th-century founder of their faith, Baha'ullah, as the latest in a line of prophets who include Muhammad, Moses, Zoraster, Buddha, Krishna, and Jesus.

They espouse world peace, and their holiest places and world center are in what is now Israel, Iran's arch enemy.