December 31, 2008 / 3:29 PM / 12 years ago

Iranian newspaper reportedly closed for Gaza article

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A newspaper close to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been closed down for publishing an article the authorities said was sympathetic to Israel, the official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The moderate daily Kargozaran is regarded as close to Rafsanjani, who was defeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.

“The reason for the closure of the newspaper is because it published an article yesterday in which it sanitised the Zionist regime’s crimes in Gaza,” Mohammad Parvizi of the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry told IRNA.

He did not say when the ban would take effect. The newspaper appeared on newsstands on Wednesday.

Israel’s air attacks on the Gaza Strip have prompted protests in Iran, mainly by students who accuse Arab and Western countries of doing too little to stop the Israeli action. Iranian officials have also condemned what they say is international inaction.

Kargozaran is the latest publication critical of Ahmadinejad’s government to be shut down by the authorities. A prominent pre-reform weekly magazine, Shahrvand-e Emrouz, was closed in November.

Some political analysts say closures are aimed at stifling dissent, although the government says it welcomes constructive criticism and says it upholds the principle of free speech.

Rafsanjani is not expected to stand again for the presidency in June next year but he remains an influential figure in Iranian politics and has criticised the government, particularly over its management of the economy.

Parvizi said the Kargozaran article had suggested some supporters of the Palestinians were a “terrorist group” and said Palestinians who sheltered in kindergartens and hospitals “caused the bombings and killing of children and civilians.”

Reporting by Hossein Jaseb, writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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