Iranians stage mass protest against 'Great Satan' US

4th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" as they staged Thursday a mass protest against the "Great Satan" to mark the 31st anniversary of the capture of the US embassy by Islamist students.

Tehran, meanwhile, welcomed Washington's decision to list shadowy rebel group Jundallah as a foreign terrorist organisation, saying it was the "right" move, but reiterated its allegation that the US supports the Sunni network.

Iran annually on November 4 marks the anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy by students in Tehran in 1979, months after the Islamic revolution toppled the US-backed shah.

The embassy has remained shuttered and the US and Iran have since had no diplomatic ties.

On Thursday, waving Iranian flags and carrying anti-US banners alongside posters of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the largely young crowd also shouted anti-Israel slogans outside the US embassy site.

Banners saying "I will give my life for the leader (Khamenei)" and another quoting Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as saying, "If you want to shout, shout at the US", were displayed at the embassy compound.

The students, who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, said they were responding to Washington's refusal to hand over the deposed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

A demonstrator at Thursday's annual event, which over years has become a cornerstone of the Islamic regime, said the "criminal Americans had to be thrown out" as he praised the embassy seizure of 1979.

"Now we don't need them and we don't want to have anything to do with them," the young man, who gave his name only as Ali, told AFP.

Ezatollah Zaragami, the keynote speaker at the rally and one of the 1979 hostage takers, hit out at US President Barack Obama for acting "weakly and badly when it comes to his foreign policy."

"The reason for that is that he is using an array of advisers who are exhausted bureaucrats," said Zaragami, who now heads state media.

The rally organisers said in their final declaration that Iran considers "America as the Great Satan and enemy number one."

During the past three decades, many Iranians who led the storming of the embassy have however become severe critics of the regime they helped to establish.

Last year's November 4 anti-US rally was marred by anti-government protests triggered by the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This year's anti-America protest came days before expected nuclear talks which will see US and Iranian officials sitting at the same table for discussions on Tehran's nuclear drive.

World powers led by US suspect Iran's atomic programme is aimed at making weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Crowds of people later hurled eggs and tomatoes at Britain's Tehran embassy in protest after MI6 chief John Sawers said last week espionage was key to curbing Iran's nuclear drive, state news agency IRNA reported.

US-Iranian animosity has risen markedly since 2005, when Ahmadinejad took office for the first term. The hardliner repeatedly launches anti-US tirades.

Khamenei, the Islamic republic's all-powerful leader, also remains distrustful of Washington despite Obama's initial diplomatic overtures to Tehran.

On Wednesday, he praised the 1979 embassy takeover.

"This act is the symbol of courage and intrepidness of the young revolutionary generation against the grandeur of America, because the capture of the den of spies (US embassy) destabilised the power of America," he told a gathering of students on the eve of the anniversary.

Not all words directed Thursday at the US were hostile, however, with the Islamic republic welcoming a Washington decision to label Jundallah (Soldiers of God) as a foreign terrorist group.

"Fighting terrorism is a general responsibility of all nations and the Islamic Republic of Iran in this regard considers placing (Abolmalek) Rigi's terrorist group on the US national list of terror organisations as a move in the right direction," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

The United States on Wednesday officially designated Jundallah a foreign terrorist organisation, blaming it for a series of attacks in Iran.

© 2010 AFP

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