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Reports: Iranian president asks end to CNN ban

Translation error had led to reports of journalists' ouster

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked that a ban on CNN journalists in Iran be lifted and that the network be allowed to continue working in the country, according to a report by the official Iranian news agency IRNA early Tuesday.

The report said the president's chief of staff has made the request in a letter to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Government television station IRINN is also reporting that late Monday night, the president's office called for the ministry to annul its decision banning CNN from working in Iran and asked that the network be allowed to continue working there as before.

IRNA reported Monday that the Iranian government banned CNN journalists from working in the country after a translation error broadcast by CNN mistakenly quoted Iran's president as saying his nation has the right to build nuclear weapons.

CNN was not informed directly by the Iranian government that it was banned from the country.

The dispute arises from a moment of simultaneous translation Saturday.

As Ahmadinejad was speaking, an interpreter working for a translation company hired by CNN misquoted him as having said Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons. In fact, he said Iran has the right to nuclear energy, and that "a nation that has civilization does not need nuclear weapons." He added, "our nation does not need them."

The incorrect translation was re-broadcast on CNN later Saturday.

As soon as it was alerted to the error Sunday, CNN corrected the translation and clarified Ahmadinejad's remarks, and the network apologized.

In a written statement, CNN said it "apologized on all its platforms which included the translation error, including CNN International, CNNUSA and CNN.com, and also expressed its regrets to the Iranian government and the Iranian ambassador to the U.N."

But the Iranian government, in the IRNA report, said it took a punitive measure against CNN, invalidating press cards of CNN journalists in Tehran.

CNN, in its statement, said, "CNN is very disappointed that this action has been taken."

The translation company, Lesley Howard Languages, apologized to CNN.

"Obviously, we're taking it very, very seriously. We will never use him again," owner Lesley Howard said, referring to the interpreter.

She said the same interpreter, who like other interpreters is contracted for individual projects, has done good work in the past, including for CNN.

She added that there is no reason to believe the interpreter purposely gave the wrong translation.

"We pride ourselves on having incredibly high standards," Howard said.

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