Newspapers quoted Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani as saying on Thursday: "Women's presence at such places is un-Islamic ...The concerns will be removed by cancelling the decree".

His comments were echoed by at least five other senior clerics, newspapers reported.

The clerics included Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, a staunch proponent of strict Islamic codes who some see as a mentor of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
   
Mesbah-Yazdi said it was his religious duty to voice his criticism. "Now, you are free to fulfil your religious duty (or ignore it)," he said in a message to Ahmadinejad published by the Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper.

About 120 parliamentarians also urged the president in a letter to review his decision, the newspapers said.

Moderation

Iran's dress code requires women
to cover their heads and bodies

Ahmadinejad promised a return to the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution when he was elected last year, prompting many in the establishment to expect rigorous enforcement of Islamic dress and other social codes.
   
But he has been more moderate on social issues than many expected.
       
Last week, Ahmadinejad said an annual summer campaign on women's dress codes should be carried out without force this year.

The code requires women to cover their heads and bodies.
   
The hardline Ya-Lesarat weekly called on religious people to hold a rally on Friday to condemn "social corruption", including violations of the dress code.