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
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
"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
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