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    Iran Rejects UN Report

    TEHRAN, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Iran on Friday rejected as "political" a U.N. report which said significant human rights violations were continuing there even though many Iranian leaders wished to move towards a more tolerant society.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi said the report was "incompatible with realities and current developments in Iran" after last year's election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported. "Political exploitation of the human rights issue is rejected and is in contradiction with the U.N. charter, Mohammadi said.

    "The Islamic Republic of Iran has always given...priority in its agenda to the realisation of human rights and the legitimate and basic freedoms of its nationals in accordance with its Islamic beliefs and international commitments."

    The United Nations Human Rights Commission's special representative for Iran, Maurice Copithorne, said in the report issued on Wednesday that the development of human rights in Iran depended on the outcome of a sharp internal debate between backers and opponents of Khatami's liberal reforms.

    Copithorne, who expressed disappointment at not being invited to visit Iran, said progress in the area of freedom of expression "seems to be too often a matter of two steps forward and one step back."

    He said quantifiable progress was "not in sight" in women's rights, and that the situation of members of the Baha'i faith had not improved. The religious minority are regarded as heretics by Iran's Islamic leaders. Copithorne urged Iran to refrain from ordering the death penalty for religious offences, lift a ban on Baha'i organisations, and abolish the practice of stoning-a sentence sometimes imposed for adultery under Iran's Islamic laws.

    © Copyright 1998 Reuters

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