Tehran : The Iranian parliament has banned the Tehran correspondents of the Qatar-based news network al-Jazeera after the channel allegedly insulted Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Tehran press reported Monday.
Parliament speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said the correspondents would not be allowed to attend parliamentary sessions until the network apologized for the insult, which he termed "a plot masterminded by the enemies of Islam and Iraq."
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini accused the network of having contributed to further tensions in Iraq through its remarks about the Ayatollah.
The Egyptian host of al-Jazeera's talk show "Without Borders" last week questioned the legitimacy of the leadership of Iranian-born Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric.
Al-Jazeera has a strong presence in Tehran with two offices, one for the Arabic and one for the international section of the network.
The al-Jazeera office in Tehran was temporarily closed in April 2005 for alleged provocation of the Arab minority in south-western Iran.
The news network also came under severe attack in 2004 over a cartoon on its website mocking Iran's dispute with National Geographic magazine over the terms Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf.