Originally created 01/18/06

Iran lifts ban on CNN



TEHRAN, Iran - Iran lifted its ban on CNN on Tuesday, a day after the government barred the U.S. network from the country because of its mistranslation of nuclear comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state television reported.

Ahmadinejad ordered the reversal "due to the expression of an apology" from CNN over the mistranslation, the state-run TV broadcast said.

Iran imposed the ban after CNN misquoted the president as speaking of developing "nuclear weapons" when he actually referred to "nuclear technology." CNN admitted the mistake in a broadcast.

Hard-liners called the mistranslation a deliberate act to misrepresent Iran's position at a crucial moment in international negotiations. The move highlighted the continuing tension between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program.

The Jomhuri-e-Eslami newspaper said Tuesday that CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour was a "CIA and Mossad agent with a bad record" who should be barred from Iran.

In the Kayhan newspaper, hard-liner Hossein Shariatmadari wrote that the chances of the mistranslation having been an accident were "close to nil."

"The distortion was deliberate with the aim of preventing the impact of the president's comments on the public opinion," wrote Shariatmadari, who is chief editor of Kayhan and close to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Ahmadinejad emphasized CNN's apology in a letter to Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi.

"Although the open distortion of comments by this channel is against the mission of... the media in protecting the right of nations to be informed of various opinions and events, given its apology the channel should be authorized to resume its activities," the television quoted the president as saying in the letter.

In its apology, the Atlanta-based CNN said Monday it had "quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons.

"In fact, he said that Iran has the right to nuclear energy. He added that 'a nation that has civilization does not need nuclear weapons and our nation does not need them.'

"CNN has clarified what the Iranian president said and apologized here on the air to the Iranians directly," the newscaster said.

Culture Ministry official Ali Reza Shiravi confirmed to The Associated Press that the ban had been lifted completely.

"CNN can resume its activities as of today," Shiravi said.

The controversy came amid a flurry of meetings by world powers over how to react to Iran's decision last week to remove U.N. seals from its uranium enrichment plant and resume small-scale enrichment - a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors as well as material for atomic bombs.

The United States accuses Iran of secretly aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, insisting its nuclear program is solely for generating electricity.