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Thousands rally as Iran marks US embassy capture

By Ibrahim Usman with Agency reports
Thousands of Iranians, chanting "Death to America!", gathered on Thursday outside the former US embassy in Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the capture of the mission by Islamist students. 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.


State television showed a banner saying "I will give my life for the leader (Khamenei)”, while another quoted Iran`s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as saying, "If you want to shout, shout at the US."

Iran annually on November 04 marks the anniversary of the capture of the US embassy by Islamist students in Tehran in 1979, months after the Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.

The embassy in central Tehran has remained closed and the US and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since then.

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

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

This year`s anti-US demonstration, one of the cornerstones of the Islamic regime, comes days before expected nuclear talks which will see US and Iranian officials sitting at the same table for discussions on Tehran`s controversial atomic programme.

US-Iranian animosity rose markedly during the tenure of former US president George W Bush, who lumped Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein`s Iraq.

Relations have become further strained since 2005, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office. The hardliner repeatedly launches anti-US tirades.

Iran`s Khamenei, the all-powerful leader of the Islamic republic, has made it clear he still distrusts the United States despite Bush successor Barack Obama`s initial diplomatic overtures towards Tehran.

On Wednesday, Khamenei again praised the embassy takeover 31 years ago and expressed his distrust of US leaders.

"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.

"The declarations made by American presidents at different times appear to be friendly and soft, but in fact they are like an iron hand in velvet gloves," the country`s commander-in-chief said.

This year`s anniversary comes at a time when Washington, along with Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany, are preparing to participate later this month in discussions with Iran over its nuclear programme.