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Chants of ‘Death to America’ as Iran marks 1979 crisis


Anti-American emotions remain in Iran despite Rouhani’s claims of engagement
Anti-American emotions remain in Iran despite Rouhani’s claims of engagement
AFP, Tehran, 4 Nov 2013 - Thousands of Iranians shouted “Death to America” as they rallied Monday on the anniversary of the 1979 US embassy takeover, in a setback to hopes for a thaw in relations.
Hardline and conservative factions had called for a massive demonstration 34 years after Islamist students stormed the embassy compound in Tehran, holding 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.
The crisis, which went on to become a turning-point for Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, led to the severance of diplomatic ties with Washington and decades of hostility.
Calls for a high rally turnout went out on state television despite a recent taboo-breaking telephone chat between the Iranian and American presidents against a backdrop of growing signals of rapprochement between the arch foes.
The main demonstration was held in front of the former US embassy complex in central Tehran, with protesters waving anti-American banners, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” and burning the US and Israeli flags.
Effigies of US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be seen held aloft by protesters, a considerable portion of whom were students.
Similar gatherings were reported in other cities across the Islamic republic, according to footage broadcast on state television.
Some protesters carried replicas of centrifuges, equipment used in enriching nuclear material, as a sign of “resistance against sanctions,” amid ongoing negotiations with world powers over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.
The United States and Israel suspect Iran’s nuclear drive masks military objectives, despite repeated denials by Tehran.
Basij militia head Mohammad Reza Naqdi and vice president for executive affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari were reported by Iranian media to be among conservative figures and government officials attending the Tehran rally.
A large number of Iranian lawmakers had issued a statement Sunday vowing to partake in the annual state-organised event in front of the “Den of Spies” -- the US embassy compound turned into a museum showcasing American “crimes” against Iran.
This year’s ceremony comes after President Hassan Rouhani, a reputedly moderate cleric who took office in August with a pledge to improve ties with the West, held a historic telephone conversation with Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
It was the first direct contact between leaders of the two countries in more than three decades, raising hopes of a rapprochement while provoking criticism from hardliners at home against overtures towards the “Great Satan”.