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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 12:10 GMT
Thousands join anti-US rally in Iran
Demonstration in Tehran
Iranians are determined to defend their homeland
Tens of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in Tehran in a massive show of defiance against the United States, marking the anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

Leaders across the political spectrum had called on people to turn out and demonstrate their opposition to the US following President George Bush's denunciation of Iran as part of an "axis of evil".

Iranian President Mohammed Khatam
Khatami described US leaders as 'immature'
President Mohammad Khatami called on US leaders to "wake up and change your policy on Iran".

"The best way of fighting the pressures and threats of immature leaders is your presence here," said the reformist Mr Khatami in a traditional speech given on the huge Azadi (Freedom) Square in the west of the city.

Men, women and children marched through Tehran shouting: "Our people are awake, and hate America", and other slogans against the US and Israel.

Many people said they had come to show their anger at the American threat and their determination to defend their homeland should it be attacked.

This year, despite insults, the Iranian nation has commemorated the anniversary of its revolt in a greater scale than before

Mohammed Khatami
But BBC Tehran correspondent Jim Muir says it was a good natured occasion with fresh early spring sunshine adding to the holiday atmosphere.

A gold coin was offered as the prize for the best of the effigies that were paraded and then burnt at the rally, and there were some innovative slogans in English such as "Bush is Dracula".

Iran's green, white and red flags and portraits of the country's leaders decorated the capital's main thoroughfare, Enghelab (Revolution) Avenue, and an immense flag was draped over the imposing monument in the middle of Azadi Square.

Burning effigy of George Bush
George W Bush and Uncle Sam were popular effigy choices
In recent years the anniversary rally has become something of an occasion for a generally conservative audience to register their continuing commitment to a revolution which has lasted for 23 years now.

This time there is revitalised interest because of the high state of tension with the United States.

Appeal for unity

President Khatami told the crowd that this year's rally was particularly important because of the accusations and threats levelled at Iran.

The American people have every right to ask their leaders how long should they pay the price for their faulty policies

President Khatami
"This year, despite insults to the great Iranian nation and the trumped up charges against it, the Iranian nation has commemorated the anniversary of its revolt in a greater scale than before," Mr Khatami said.

He seemed to suggest that the US had brought the 11 September attacks upon itself.

"The American people have every right to ask their leaders how long should they pay the price for their faulty policies," he said.

"What policies and what reasons caused the 11 September attacks?" he asked.

Catalogue of violations

But the reformist movement, of which Mr Khatami is the main symbol, was far from speaking with the same voice as the conservative hardliners in a statement it issued, calling on people to attend.

It listed a long catalogue of civil rights violations attributed to the hardline judiciary.

Our correspondent says the American campaign of hostility has benefited hardliners and obliged reformists to join them in speaking out against Washington.

But below that surface, he says, the bitter rift between the two factions remains as acute as ever.

The BBC's Jim Muir
"They're ready to sacrifice their lives if America attacks Iran"
The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"This year's demonstration had huge additional significance"
Former Times' columnist, Hazhir Teimourian
"I do not see much action against the Iranians or Koreans"
See also:

11 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran's reformists on the defensive
11 Feb 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Iran and the 'axis of evil'
11 Feb 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Iranians march against US
11 Feb 02 | South Asia
Looking back at Iran's revolution
07 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran warns US against attack
06 Feb 02 | Americas
US softens line on 'evil axis'
31 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran lashes out at Bush
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
30 Jan 02 | Americas
'Suspects' condemn Bush speech
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Iran accuses Bush of war-mongering
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush warns on terror
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