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Ayatollah's Grandson Feels Freer, Safer in Iraq

Washington, D.C., July 2, 2004 - Seyyed Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini who fled Iran several months ago, told the Voice of America Thursday that he feels freer and safer in Iraq than he did in Iran. "I have returned to Baghdad for a pilgrimage and in order to breathe in an open environment," he told VOA's Persian language television program News and Views.

The 45-year-old Shi'ite cleric described the mood of the people of Iraq as joyful. As for Iran, Khomeini said he had not been directly threatened there, but he was worried not only about the welfare of his wife and three children, who currently live in Qom, Iran, but also for the welfare of all Iranian people.

Asked about his future plans in Iraq, he said, "I'd be happy to do anything in this environment -- everything from peddling in front of Hazrat Mooseh-Abn-Jafar (a religious site) to creating a theological school. That way I'll be released from being referred to as someone's son, or grandson or son-in-law. If you depend on yourself, you don't have to depend on others."

VOA broadcasts three Persian-language TV programs to Iran. News and Views is a daily, 30-minute television news show broadcast via satellite to audiences in Iran; Next Chapter is a weekly newsmagazine show, and Roundtable With You is a weekly 90-minute discussion show. These shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio service and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government. VOA broadcasts almost 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of 87 million people. Programs are produced in Persian and 43 other languages.

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