By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 7, 2009

TEHRAN, Sept. 6 — Iranian officials have canceled or downgraded major Shiite religious events during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, suggesting fear that the opposition might use them to stage protests.

A typically massive evening celebration scheduled for next weekend at the South Tehran mausoleum of the Islamic republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was canceled “due to problems,” the site’s public relations department said in a statement.

A traditional speech by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, marking the end of Ramadan, meanwhile, was changed from a large venue to one that is much smaller, the Ettemaad newspaper, which is critical of the government, reported Sunday.

And in Qom, the nation’s center for religious education, several famous clerics who silently support the opposition were told they had been barred from speaking at an event Wednesday in the city’s most important shrine, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported.

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