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Iran's Ex-President Hosts Prominent Western Figures

By VOA News

13 October 2008

Iran's former President Mohammad Khatami is hosting several former Western leaders at a conference in Tehran.

A number of world dignitaries and religious leaders joined Mr. Khatami as the conference on Religion in the Modern World opened Monday.

The guests include former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Irish President Mary Robinson and former prime ministers of Italy and France Romano Prodi and Lionel Jospin.

Analysts describe the rare gathering in Iran's capital as a gesture of support for the former moderate president ahead of Iran's presidential election next June.

Supporters of Mr. Khatami are urging him to run against incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the hope that his possible victory would get Iran out of international isolation.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Mr. Khatami dismissed the idea that the conference might be linked to elections.

The two-day conference is looking into how religious and political leaders can cooperate to advance peaceful coexistence in modern, diverse societies.

It is co-sponsored by The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.

Mr. Khatami was Iran's president from 1997 until 2005. He now heads an institute that promotes dialogue among cultures and civilizations.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.



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