Iran celebrates 31 years since US embassy takeover

Rally attended by thousands carrying signs with anti-US and anti-Israel slogans; eggs thrown at British diplomatic compound at separate rally.

Iranian dresses up as Palestinian (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Iranian dresses up as Palestinian
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
TEHERAN, Iran — Demonstrators chanted "Down with America" outside the former US Embassy and pelted the British diplomatic compound with eggs and tomatoes Thursday in separate rallies held under tight security but without challenges from opposition groups.
The protests outside the former American Embassy were well-scripted events to mark the anniversary of the 1979 storming of the site — which began a 444-day hostage crisis and severed Washington's ties with Iran.
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Despite the familiar chants against the United States, protesters did not appear to burn US flags in what could be a rare nod of approval to Washington for adding an Iranian militant group to it's terrorist list.
The anti-British demonstration, however, included the Union Jack going up in flames. The protest appeared to be reaction to Iran's announcement that it arrested four suspected members of a Kurdish rebel group with a top official allegedly living in Britain.
Last year, the annual pro-government event outside the brick walls of the former US Embassy brought clashes and chaos to central Teheran after protesters held counter-marches over their claims of massive vote rigging in the presidential election.
But it was among the last major displays of opposition anger on the streets. Embattled authorities began stepping up their crackdowns and threats to quell the most serious domestic unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
This year, security forces were on high alert for any hint of dissent. Hundreds of anti-riot police joined regular units to fan out across major squares and traffic junctions across Teheran.
The opposition Jaras website posted a statement applauding the "brave" takeover of the US Embassy to protest American support for the pro-Western shah, who had been toppled by the Islamic Revolution months earlier.
Washington cut diplomatic ties after militant students stormed the embassy, holding 52 hostages for 444 days.
Outside the former embassy, crowds — including many school children bused to the event — chanted anti-American slogans and taunted effigies of Uncle Sam and President Barack Obama.
Iran on Thursday welcomed the US State Department decision to put the Iranian Sunni militant group Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, on the US terrorist list — which includes al-Qaida and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah.
Jundallah, which is fighting for Sunni rights in predominantly Shi'ite Iran, has been blamed for a series of attacks including a mosque bombing in July that killed about 30 people.
Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Teheran University, said the absence of burning US flags at the rally could be "a sign of respect" by Iran's leaders.
The rally outside the British Embassy was staged just hours after Iran said it arrested four suspected members of Kurdish rebel group with links to Britain.
State-run Iranian Press TV quoted a statement from Iran's Intelligence Ministry saying the arrested men are part of a faction known as the Koumaleh Party. It claimed the men were based in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and received orders from a Koumaleh commander going by the name Jalil Fattahi. Iran says Fattahi lives in Britain.
The British government dismissed the allegations as "another in a long line of slurs against the United Kingdom from the government of Iran."