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Iran President Urges Clerics To Be More Tolerant Of Internet

Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani on Monday urged the country's orthodox Islamic clerics to be more tolerant of internet and other new technologies, stressing that Iran cannot "close the gates to the world."

Noting that it was vital that the younger generation had access to the internet, the Iranian President said: "If we do not move towards the new generation of mobile today and resist it, we will have to do it tomorrow. If not, the day after tomorrow."

Rouhani made the appeal during a meeting with clerics in Tehran. Incidentally, his appeal came days after prominent Iranian cleric Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi said that high-speed mobile internet is immoral and un-Islamic.

Rouhani, a relative moderate, was elected to power last year. Although he had earlier pledged to expand media and internet freedoms in the country, he has been facing stiff resistance from hard-line clerics.

Hard-liners oppose third generation mobile-phone network technology on grounds that it paves the way for immoral images. Nevertheless, the government recently awarded 3G licenses to three mobile broadband companies.

Notably, only a small number of citizens currently use mobile broadband in Iran, which has witnessed
frequent government crackdowns on media freedom and internet access after the 2009 anti-government protests.

Although authorities have banned online services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the youth and technology-savvy Iranians often by-pass those censorship controls by using proxy servers or other online tools.

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