Iranians slam US, Israel on revolution anniversary
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Last Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2012, 18:21
Tehran: Iranians, some holding placards declaring "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", on Saturday marked the anniversary of their country's 1979 Islamic revolution with mass marches and a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators congregated in cities across Iran under winter skies, state television showed.

The main rallying point was in Tehran, where Ahmadinejad was to address a crowd of around 30,000 in Azadi (Freedom) Square from a stage in front of which a full-scale model of a captured US spy drone was erected.

In an unusual break with tradition -- and a pointed swipe at Israel -- the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniya, gave a speech from the podium at Ahmadinejad's side, in which he vowed that the Islamist movement would never recognise the Jewish state.

"They want us to recognise the Israeli occupation and cease resistance but, as the representative of the Palestinan people and in the name of all the world's freedom seekers, I am announcing from Azadi Square in Tehran that we will never recognise Israel," Haniya told the crowd.

"The resistance will continue until all Palestinian land, including al-Quds (Jerusalem), has been liberated and all the refugees have returned," he said.

His reassertion of the longstanding Hamas position is likely to complicate Palestinian efforts to form a unity government in the teeth of opposition from the Jewish state, which blacklists the Islamist group as a terrorist organisation.

The model drone and Haniya were clear signs of defiance by Iran's regime as it confronts US-led Western economic sanctions and Israeli threats of military action against its controversial nuclear programme.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have said they would not abandon their "rights" to the nuclear activities, which they maintain are exclusively non-military in nature.

The United States and Israel, however, see the nuclear programme as including research to build an atomic bomb that can fit into Iran's ballistic missiles -- a contention given some backing by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, three months ago.


First Published: Saturday, February 11, 2012, 16:08

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