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  Thousands of Iranians warn US in embassy protest

AFP | November 04, 2006

Thousands of Iranians demonstrated in Tehran on Saturday to mark the 27th anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy by Islamist students, warning Washington against taking action over Iran's nuclear programme.

The demonstrators, mainly schoolchildren and students, brandished banners proclaiming "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" as they gathered outside the walls of the former embassy, now known locally as the "Den of Spies".

The US embassy's personnel were held hostage for 444 days after the building was stormed on November 4, 1979, shortly after the Islamic revolution led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that toppled the US-backed Shah.

The seizure of the embassy, prompted by anger over the Shah's entry into the United States for cancer treatment, caused Washington to break off relations with Iran and ties have remained severed ever since.

"The Americans should have learned their lesson from the occupation of the Den of Spies, but unfortunately they have not," parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel roared to the cheering crowds.

Hadad Adel reaffirmed warnings that Iran would hit back if the United States succeeds in its wish to impose US Security Council sanctions against Tehran, on top of the already existing US embargo imposed after the embassy seizure.

"America must know that the Iranians will show a proportionate reaction to any attempts to restrict Iran's sovereignty and the nation's undeniable right to peaceful nuclear technology," said Hadad Adel.

"They should remember that threats and sanctions will not affect this great nation's determination. We are ready to pay the price of our independence," he added.

The demonstrators burned US and Israeli flags and also effigies of Uncle Sam.

A declaration read out at the meeting warned the present US administration not to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, which the United States alleges is cover for a weapons drive.

"We tell the world imperialists that we are the children of Khomeini so do not threaten us with sanctions," the statement said, adding that the nuclear programme was a source of "pride and glory" for Iranians.

"We say with a loud voice that we are ready to defend our soil and independence," it added.

European powers and the United States are currently trying to persuade the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is solely aimed at generating energy.

However progress on agreeing the draft resolution has been slow, with Russia and China both insisting on changes to the text.

Most of the demonstrators appeared to be under the age of 18 but were nonetheless eager to share their thoughts on the geopolitical situation and explain the political message of the demonstration.

"Our presence here is an anti-imperialistic move aimed at the United States and the Israeli Zionist regime to say we are united and we support Lebanon and Palestine," said Amir Hossein Rezaie, 16, dressed in military uniform.

"We are here to tell America and the Zionists that just as our peers gave their blood for the revolution we are ready to defend ourselves and we will stand firm behind our leader," added Fatemeh Bajalan, also 16.

The embassy compound, now run by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, is used as an educational centre with occasional exhibitions exploring the "crimes" of the United States.

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