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03/20/2006, Iran - "Iran: Daylight saving abolished for religious reasons", Rah/Aki

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Daylight saving, which was due to come into force in Iran on Tuesday - the first day of the Iranian new year - has been abolished by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Changing the clocks with the seasons was introduced in Iran in 1990 to try to reduce energy consumption. Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham justified the decision to eliminate daylight saving on the grounds that when the legal hour changes many faithful have difficulty in calculating with precision the hour of prayer.

In the same presidential decree, Ahmadinejad said that students returning from New Years holidays must turn up for school at 7 am instead of 8am, and public officers will open an hour earlier, at 7.30 am local time.

The decision by Ahmadinejad to suspend daylight saving on religious grounds, ignoring the economic motivations of the government in 1990, has been criticised by reformists and economists.

"The country is in no condition to increase public spending" warned economist Fereidoun Khavanad.

"With the Iranian nuclear dossier before the Security Council it does not seem very intelligent to increase energy consumption rather than diminish it" added Khavand.

Under Daylight Saving Time, official time is adjusted forward, usually by one hour, remaining that way for the spring and summer months.

The measure is intended to provide a better match between the hours of daylight and the active hours of work and school and allow more efficient use of natural sunlight resource in summer time.

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