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Ahmadinejad under fire for hugging Chavez’s mother

TEHRAN — Iranian clerics have scolded President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for consoling Hugo Chavez’s mother with a hug — a physical contact considered a sin under Iran’s strict Islamic codes.

The rebuke follows a widely published photo showing Ahmadinejad embracing Chavez’s mother at the funeral of the late Venezuelan president in what is seen as taboo-breaking behavior in Iran.

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Iranian papers on Tuesday cited clerics from the religious center of Qom who described the hug as ‘‘forbidden,’’ inappropriate behavior, and ‘‘clowning around.’’

Iran’s Islamic codes prohibit physical contact between unrelated members of the opposite sex.

The clerics did not spare Ahmadinejad. ‘‘Touching a non-mahram [a woman who is not a close relative] is forbidden under any circumstances, whether shaking hands or touching by the cheek,’’ said one of the clerics, Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, adding that such a contact, even with ‘‘an older woman is not allowed . . . and contrary to the dignity of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.’’

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a religious leader in Qom, said Ahmadinejad was ‘‘clowning around’’ and his hug shows he failed to ‘‘protect the dignity of his nation and his position.’’

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