Agence France-Presse

KORDE KUV, Iran, April 5 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called Wednesday for "more solidarity and understanding" between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, days after the murder of a Shiite theology student in a predominantly Sunni region.

Khatami was speaking during a tour of northeastern Iran near the border of Turkmenistan, home to a large Sunni population while Iran as a whole is 90 percent Shiite.

"There must be more solidarity and understanding between Sunnis and Shiites, " Khatami said.

"Unity between Shiites and Sunnis does not mean the suppression of each other's beliefs, but with good sense we must explore what they have in common and strengthen them."

"If we turn towards the present and the future, without burying ourselves in the past, the disagreements will be dissipated, to the advantage of both Shiites and Sunnis," he added.

"While defending our principls and convictions, we can live together and achieve a unified and progressive society."

Khatami's remarks followed the murder last Friday of a Shiite trainee mullah in the Sunni-majority southeastern city of Zahedan by attackers who queried him about his religious convictions.

The daily Asr-e Azardegan said Sunday that Shamseddin Kiani, an 18-year-old theological student, was abducted, forced into a car, beaten and burned. He died of his injuries in hospital, after telling investigators that he had been questioned about his beliefs and his reasons for studying in a Koranic school.

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