Iran: Stadium ban on women in Iran to stay

Iran's supreme leader has vetoed a decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to allow women into sports stadiums, a government official said Monday, after the move caused a furor in the clerical establishment.
It marked the first time Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on matters of state in Iran's system of clerical rule, has openly challenged government policy since Ahmadinejad's inauguration last August.
"Iran's Supreme Leader has instructed the government to consider the religious leaders' views and reverse its decision (on letting women into stadiums)," government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference.

"The government will act based on this instruction," he said.

Several high-ranking clerics had criticised Ahmadinejad's announcement last month that women would be permitted to watch men compete in sports stadiums for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The president's move had surprised many given his traditional religious background and pledge to restore revolutionary values.

Among those who criticised his decision was Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, a staunch proponent of strict Islamic codes who some analysts see as a mentor of the president. "The president is a valuable and respected servant of the people, but I think he committed an error," Mesbah-Yazdi was quoted as saying by the students news agency ISNA last month.

Bureau Report, Tehran, May 11 2006