Iranian President Muhammad Khatami on Tuesday asked the French government to cancel President Jacques Chirac's "wrong decision" backing the probable ban.

  

"I hope the French government, which claims to be avant-garde in liberty, equality and fraternity, will cancel this wrong decision," Khatami told reporters after submitting next year's budget bill to the Iranian parliament.

  

"This decision is not final yet and I hope that our parliament gives a message to the parliament in France not to approve this law, which is against liberty and the guidelines of democracy," he added.

 

Religious necessity

  

Khatami said the "hijab (headscarf) is a religious necessity and its restriction is a sign of a kind of extreme nationalistic tendency."

 

"Hijab is a religious necessity and its restriction is a sign of a kind of extreme nationalistic tendency"

Muhammad Khatami,
President, Iran

On Sunday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran criticised Chirac's "extremist decision."

  

"We regard this as an extremist decision aimed at preventing the development of Islamic values" in France.

  

After months of heated debate, France's Stasi committee of experts last week recommended banning "conspicuous" religious insignia - including the Muslim headscarf, the Jewish kippa and large crucifixes - from state schools, which are in principle strictly secular.

  

In a speech on Wednesday, Chirac came out in favour of the ban, which he wants written into law by the start of the next academic year.