Paper: Sorry For Iran Badge Story

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A Canadian newspaper has apologized for publishing an erroneous story last week that said the Iranian parliament had passed a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear badges identifying them as religious minorities in public.

The story published in the National Post last Friday has stirred up an international row, and the Iranian government on Wednesday summoned Canada's ambassador to the foreign ministry in Tehran.

Iran's conservative parliament last week began debating a draft law that would discourage women from wearing Western clothing and encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.

The measure provoked outrage outside Iran after the National Post, a conservative national daily, reported that the bill included provisions requiring Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims to wear a patch of colored cloth on the front of their garments — in a chilling throwback to Nazi Germany, when Jews were forced to wear the yellow star of David.

The Post, quoting Iranian expatriates living in Canada, reported the law would require "Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews ... to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth."

The report brought immediate criticism from the United States, which is locked in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a Jewish human rights group, was compelled to send a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking him to look into the matter.

In Tehran, legislator Emad Afroogh, who sponsored the bill and chairs the parliament's cultural committee, told The Associated Press last Friday there was no truth to the report.

"It's a sheer lie. The rumors about this are worthless," he said.

A copy of the bill, obtained by The Associated Press in Tehran on Saturday, makes no mention of requiring special attire for religious minorities.

Iranian state television reported Wednesday that Canadian Ambassador Gordon Venner had been summoned to the foreign ministry. The meeting comes on the heels of comments by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said last Friday that while he could not vouch for the accuracy of the National Post report, he believed Iran was capable of such actions.