President Mohammad Khatami said in Geneva on Thursday that democracy would not be achieved in the absence of free dissemination of information, IRNA reported.
Khatami, who is currently in Switzerland to attend the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), made the remark when talking to reporters on the sidelines of the summit.
"Fortunately, the Iranian government is among serious defenders of freedom of expression. Differences of opinion may exist among various groups in the establishment but I have always been among supporters of those who promote mass communication," Khatami said.
This does not mean that politicians and those engaged in mass communications fields are authorized to perform whatever offense they want, he said.
The political crime bill has been codified with the cooperation of the Majlis but has been rejected by the Guardian Council. It will be finalized in a near future after negotiations which have been conducted, he noted.
Asked about limitations imposed on some Internet sites in Iran, he said all information-dissemination and political sites are available in Iran. Only a number of immoral sites, totaling about 240, that are not compatible with the culture and beliefs of the Iranian nation have been blocked.
He expressed hope world societies would reach a point that ethics would prevail so that there would be no need to control the Internet sites.
Pointing to the release of a number of detained university students on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, Khatami said, "It is not pleasant to us to have even one detained journalist." "Of course," he noted, "I believe the number of political prisoners and those detained on press charges in some countries are by far more than those in Iran."
He stressed that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Ambeyi Ligabo has recently announced that Iran has a total of 26 political prisoners.
"Today, there are no prisoners in Iran who are detained on press charges except for one person whose case has been investigated and reported not to be politically-motivated but that he has committed financial offense."
Referring to Tehran-Algiers ties, the president said Algeria was highly valued due to the honors it brought for Islam and freedom-fighters.
Khatami further noted that he will pay a visit to Algeria and meet his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the near future.
Asked about the presence of al-Qaeda members in Iran, he said, "The hostility of al-Qaeda toward the Islamic Republic of Iran is not less than their enmity with the United States. "We have turned over citizens of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen and even some European countries, with whom we have ties, to those countries."
The president added that eight Iranian diplomats and a reporter have been killed in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule in that country.
"We have announced that whoever threatens peace, has no place in Iran. However, since Iran has the most extensive borderline with Afghanistan and has suffered 3500 victims in its anti-drug fight in this area, political forces will naturally enter our country through same way," Khatami noted.
Highlighting crimes committed by the terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), he said he had heard recently that Iraq's Governing Council has announced the group should leave Baghdad because they disturbed ties between Iraq and other countries.
The president said that low-ranking members of the group who had been deceived and are currently in Iraq can return to Iran. However, their leaders should be tried at court some day, he tressed.
Asked about the Middle East peace, Khatami said, "Israel proved it is not after peace and that it impudently opposes all plans set forth by the UN Security Council for Palestine. "Durable and lasting peace is good for all of us but t would not be achieved except through the return of all the displaced persons to their homeland and by recognition of Palestinians' rights."
Asked about his talks with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak, the Iranian president said, "The talks were comprehensive and the two sides discussed various issues including developments in Iraq and Palestine."
Khatami and Mubarak here Wednesday emphasized that the occupiers must leave Iraq's soil and transfer that country's sovereignty to the Iraqi nation.
President Khatami said in the meeting, "Further strengthening of ties between the two nations will leave quite a positive effect on Islamic world."
He said, "Tehran and Cairo can consult and exchange viewpoints in significant developments related to the Islamic world." He evaluated Egypt's role in Middle East developments as "significant", emphasizing that the two countries need to cooperate in efforts aimed at solving the regional crises, including that of Iraq.
President Hosni Mubarak referred to Cairo's enthusiasm for the establishment of good relations with Tehran, stressing that the current world conditions dictate that Egypt and Iran, as two important countries in the Islamic world, would cooperate with each other in various fields.
Emphasizing that Iran and Egypt should abandon differences under the current sensitive conditions, President Mubarak said, Egypt was after the establishment of an appropriate level of ties and cooperation with Iran.
The two sides during the meeting assessed continuation of Iraq's occupation as a factor contributing to the expansion of terrorist moves and a threat against regional stability.
President Khatami further told reporters that Egypt's stance at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is in favor of Iran. Khatami further assessed Cairo's cooperation at different working groups of the Islamic conference as positive.
Replying to another question on Tehran-Dushanbe ties, Khatami said Iran and Tajikistan enjoy very good relations, adding Iran will host Tajik president in the near future.
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