'Passion of the Christ' on Iran's public screens

Iranian authorities have approved the public screening of the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" in a rare green light for a US-made movie, press reports said Thursday.

One report by the state news agency IRNA noted that the Mel Gibson feature upset Jewish critics - Iran is an arch-foe of Israel and says it should not exist.

The go-ahead came from Iran's ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, which normally takes a dim view of western movies because of scenes allegedly contravening Islamic values.

Iranians are able to watch the current movie blockbusters only on video cassettes or DVDs, or on officially banned satellite television channels.

The reports gave no details of the Mel Gibson film, which has been a box office success but has been criticised for alleged anti-Semitism - which Gibson denies - and violence.

Other Islamic countries in the region have been divided about the film: Oman and Qatar have approved it, Bahrain has banned it and Kuwait is still making up its mind.

In Israel one Tel Aviv cinema club plans to give it one showing.