`Muslims are assets of India'

HYDERABAD JAN. 28. Rounding off his four-day tour of India, the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, called on the Government of India and non-Muslims to "treat Muslims as assets of this country'' and protect their dignity and rights.

Speaking to a gathering of Iranians at the Iranian Consulate-General here on Tuesday, he said that Muslims had been part of India's society for centuries and had contributed to the development of its culture.

He said the Indian Muslims should, on their part, forsake the path of confrontation while addressing their problems. He added poetically that Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zorastrians and the people of other religions were like flowers of the same garden. He called on all Indians to walk like brothers in arms on the path of progress.

Mr. Khatami was given an emotional welcome by members of the Iranian community here when he arrived at the premises of the Iranian consulate. Visibly moved by the reception, he told the gathering that they were the representatives of Iran in India and asked them to work hard and contribute to their host country's society and economy.

He had a special word of praise for the Zorastrians whom he complimented for being exemplary ambassadors of Iran and its culture and said that with their industriousness, compassion and nobility they had added glory to the country of their origin.

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