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Parliament passes tough press measures

TEHRAN, Iran, April 11, 2000 (AFP) - Iran's outgoing conservative parliament on Tuesday approved parts of a tough new press law whose first reading last year helped spark student protests that erupted into six days of bloody riots.

The parliament, which will step down in a few weeks to make way for a reform-dominated legislature that won in February's elections, is to debate the remaining points in the bill on Wednesday.

Tuesday's vote gave the state security court sweeping powers to immediately close, for up to two months, any newspaper it believes is endangering security in the Islamic republic.

The bill was put forward by conservative MPs who said they wanted to combat newspapers and journalists who "violate the values and principles of the Islamic republic."

The pro-reform majority in the incoming parliament, which takes office in May, would likely overturn much of the bill.

Parliament approved the measure in a draft reading last July on the same day that a leading pro-reform daily was closed by a conservative court.

Student protests that same evening erupted into six days of rioting after demonstrators were attacked by police and Islamic vigilantes.

Iran's courts have in recent weeks renewed their tough stand on the pro-reform press, arresting or calling into court a number of journalists and newspaper chiefs, including Mohammad-Reza Khatami, the brother of President Mohammad Khatami.