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Iran holy city cracking down on loud pop music

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TEHRAN — Authorities in an Iranian holy Muslim city have launched a crackdown on pop music, arresting dozens of youths for playing loud music on their car stereos, a newspaper reported.

Police also seized some 80 cars during a weekend outing at a recreational center outside the northeastern city of Mashhad, site of a major Shiite Muslim shrine, the Qods newspaper said.

A local judge told the daily that the youths faced up to 75 lashes, a fine and seizure of their music equipment.

Those repeating the offense could be exiled or receive harsher sentences under Iran's Islamic laws, he said.

Iran's Islamic code of dress and conduct is more tightly enforced in Mashhad than in the more liberal capital Tehran.

The crackdown came despite a recent ruling by a high court that mere possession of "illicit" pictures, audio and video cassettes is not a crime.

Reformist President Mohammad Khatami's efforts at cultural liberalization are opposed by hard-liners who dominate Iran's judicial system and who fear that Islamic and revolutionary principles may be watered down.