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The Associated Press June 8, 2010, 5:08AM ET

Iran opens first all-women bank branch

Iranian media say the country's first bank branch catering exclusively to women has began operating.

Economic daily Doniay-e Eghtesda reported Tuesday that a Bank Melli branch in Mashad, about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) east of Tehran, offers banking services to women, by women. Bank Melli is one of Iran's top-five banks.

The paper quoted Bank Melli head Mahmoud Reza Khavari as saying the new branch -- the first of dozens planned -- is part of an effort to allow women to bank in an environment free of interaction with men and a reflection of women's "significant role" in financial affairs.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, authorities have pushed for greater separation of the sexes in places such as hospitals, parks, universities and public transportation.

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