EU's Lady Ashton given 'cover-up' in Iran press

Original photo of Lady Ashton with Iran's Saeed Jalili (left) and altered photo that appeared in Iranian press Lady Ashton's plunging neckline was altered (right) in parts of the Iranian press

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Some newspapers in Iran retouched a photograph of EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton to make her outfit less revealing, an Iranian website reports.

Asriran.com showed Iranian press pictures of Lady Ashton next to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, with her black top raised higher than in the original.

They had held talks in Istanbul on Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Iranian papers often retouch images, a BBC Persian Service journalist says.

Cyrus Amini, who worked in Iranian print media in 1998-2003, said the practice was "quite usual and understandable" because of the differences between Western and Iranian culture.

"It's not something meant to be insulting or impolite, or trying to damage someone's image, it's just to avoid trouble," he added.

He said some Muslim clerics in Iran were even objecting to pictures showing a woman's exposed head and neck.

"If it's a bit revealing, further than the accepted norm, then the authorities may take issue with it, then the axe starts to fall on that paper - whether pro-government or reformist," he said.

He said the authorities could file away such alleged infringements for future use, and use them as justification for fining or shutting down a publication.

Lady Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, held talks with Mr Jalili in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday but no breakthrough was reached.

She was representing the five UN Security Council permanent members - the UK, China, France, Russia and the US - plus Germany.

Western powers suspect Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon. Tehran insists that it is only trying to develop nuclear power for civilian needs.

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