President misquoted over gays in Iran: aide

TEHRAN Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:38am EDT

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks in Tehran University October 8, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks in Tehran University October 8, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's president was misrepresented by Western media when he was quoted saying there were no gays in Iran, and actually meant there were not so many as in the United States, a presidential aide said on Wednesday.

Addressing New York's Columbia University last month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied to a question about gays in the Islamic Republic saying: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."

Speaking through a translator, he also said: "In Iran we don't have this phenomenon."

The remarks drew widespread criticism in the West.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic.

"What Ahmadinejad said was not a political answer. He said that, compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals," presidential media adviser Mohammad Kalhor said.

Kalhor told Reuters that because of historical, religious and cultural differences homosexuality was less common in Iran and the Islamic world than in the West.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in May the last person known "with reasonable certainty" to have been sentenced to execution in Iran for consensual homosexual conduct was in 2005. But it did not know if the sentence had been carried out.

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