IRANIANS BOYCOTTED STATE-ORGANISED ANNIVERSARY OF OCCUPATION OF US EMBASSY

TEHRAN, 4 Nov. (IPS) Iranian refused to take part to the ceremonies the Islamic Republic marked Tuesday celebrating the 24th anniversary of the occupation of the American embassy in Tehran, bringing to stage some 10.000 people, mostly college and primary schools students and basijis students and volunteers, shouting slogans against the United States and its "illegitimate son", Israel.

The demonstrators, bussed by the authorities to Tehran University, marched to the site of former huge US embassy, now a training centre for the Revolutionary Guards, chanted "death to America, death to Israel" and "death to Britain", waved anti-US banners and burned Israeli flags and effigies of Uncle Sam.

On 4 of November 1979, a group of revolutionary students callingthemselves "in the line of the Emam" (Grand Ayatollah Roohollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution), stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held 55 diplomats and staff hostage for 444 days.

As a result, Washington cut off all relations with the newly established Islamic Republic and imposed unilateral sanctions, mostly in the Iranian vital oil sector, thus crippling Iranian economy and isolating it on the international scene.

Today, 13 Aban, corresponding to 4th of November marks three important events: anniversary of the takeover of the former US embassy in Tehran, better known in Iran as the "den of espionage" by the Muslim Students Following the Emam’s Line (1979), anniversary of the exile of the late Founder of the Islamic Republic Emam Khomeini by the ex-Shah (1964) and the Students Day (marking the day in 1978 in which several students taking part in a protest rally against the former Shah were martyred)", the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported about the rally.

Eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service that few ordinary people had come to the demonstrations that were also boycotted by the reformists, highlighted by the absence of any of the surviving students who had stormed the Embassy, most of them calling now for normalising relations with Washington.

Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, the Speaker of the last Majles who is now an adviser to the leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i and Head of the Leader’s Intelligence Office, in an address to the inspirited rally, reminded that the American embassy in Tehran had been Washington’s largest spying base in the Middle East.

He also defended the government’s decision to sign the Protocols to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that would allow international nuclear inspectors full and unrestricted access to all Iranian nuclear sites, installations and projects.

Officials said the decision, signed by Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, the influential Secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security on 21 November with the foreign affairs ministers of Britain, France and Germany in Tehran was blessed by Ayatollah Khameneh'i who, as the leader of the Iranian clerical regime, makes all major decisions on matters of foreign policy.

Commenting on the importance given to the anniversary by the ruling conservatives, Dr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, a veteran and outspoken political dissident and university professor said it was "normal", as the humiliating bowing to International Atomic Energy Agency’s demands for signing the Protocols had "de-sloganised" the Islamic Republic.

"This year, the ruling authorities were even more angry with the Americans, as they had surrendered to IAEA under strong direct and indirect pressures from Washington, using the Europeans for that purpose. The event having deprived the regime from its routine slogans, the authorities were looking for any occasion to save face by repeating them, hence the importance they gave to this year’s anniversary of the occupation of American embassy", he pointed out during an interview from Tehran with the Persian service of Radio France International (RFI).

In answer to a question, Mr. Sho’leh Sa’di, who is also a prominent lawyer and spent 40 days in prison for having questioned the religious and political backgrounds of Mr. Khameneh’i, strongly rejected the officials claim that they had secured important advantages from the European troika, stressing that Tehran had signed the Protocols "unconditionally", as formulated by IAEA’s Board of Directors on 12 September, giving Tehran until the end of October to either sign the Protocols and stop uranium enriching programs or face international sanctions.

Following a marathon five hours meeting with Dominique de Villepin of France, Joschka Fischer of Germany and Jack Straw of Britain, Mr. Rohani announced on 21 October that Iran has accepted the entire demands from the United Nations watchdog on nuclear issues, escaping the transfer of the case to the UN’s Security Council.

"As a prove of what I say, one has to read the commentaries wrote by Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, the leader-appointed Editor of Keyhan newspaper", he said, referring to the position of the articles of the hard line daily, one of the mouthpieces of Mr. Khameneh'i, describing the Agreement as a "humiliating and insulting to the Muslim Iranian people".

There was no message to the rally by any high-ranking official, but the demonstrators, in an eight-point resolution, warned that Iran could back-track if the other signatories were not to respect their engagements and at the same time backed the authorities for having signed the Protocols.

As the organised rally was ending, a high-ranking delegation from the United Nations human rights Committee arrived in the Iranian Capital for a weeklong visit to Iran, focusing on press freedoms and freedom of expression.

During his visit, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Ambeyi Ligabo is lined up for talks with senior Iranian government officials and magistrates as well as members of the media and academics.

In a statement, the UN said he would be "gathering relevant information on, among other issues, discrimination and threats or use of violence and harassment directed at persons, including professionals in the field of information, seeking to exercise or to promote the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression", the French news agency AFP said.

"Ligabo had initially been due to visit the country in July, but the authorities in Tehran postponed the trip in June at the height of anti-regime protests accompanied by arrests of journalists, student leaders and dissidents", Dr. Karim Lahiji, a vice-president to the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and President of the Iranian League of Human Rights in Exile explained.

During his visit, UN sources said Ligabo was expected to also meet with Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and human rights activist who won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2003.

The French-based press rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders urged Iranian authorities to use the visit to unconditionally free 11 jailed journalists and lift bans on a number of newspapers.

It also said the rapporteur should be permitted to meet the detained writers, especially those being held in solitary confinement.

More than 100 Iranian newspapers have been shut down and a dozen of prominent journalists were jailed, or forced into exile or silenced by the leader-controlled Judiciary since 2000.

Reporter Sans Frontieres has branded Iran "the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East" and Ayatollah Khameneh'i as one of the world’s "most dangerous predators of press freedom". ENDS US EMBASSY OCCUPATION 41103.