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1978: Iran's PM steps down amid riots
Iran's Prime Minister Jaffer Sharif-Emami has resigned after two days of virtual mob rule.

The appointment of Mr Sharif-Emami, a Shia Muslim, by the Shah just over two months ago was designed to put an end to the religious violence currently sweeping across the country.

However, his presence in the Shah's government failed to have the desired effect of curbing the unrest which has been particularly marked among university students.

The unrest is partly a response to the programme of secularisation being implemented under the Shah who took over from his father as Iran's ruler in 1941.

Iran has prospered thanks to its oil reserves but there is popular resentment against the Shah and the ruling elite who are believed to have profited disproportionately.

Two other government ministers have also resigned as anti-Western feeling comes to a head.

Yesterday mobs which have been running virtually unchecked through Tehran set fire to the British embassy and dozens of other buildings in the capital.

In response to the worsening violence, martial law has been extended.

The start of the nightly curfew has been moved forward three hours to 2100 and remains in force until 0500 each morning.

The authorities have announced that from now on martial law regulations, which ban gatherings of more than two people, will be strictly enforced.

The implication is that anti-Shah protestors should no longer expect the armed forces to hold back when breaking up demonstrations.

The disorder within Iran has also been exacerbated by widespread politically-motivated strikes.

Key personnel such as oil refinery workers, airline staff and central bank employees are among those who have withdrawn their labour.

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Fires burn during riots in Tehran
Rioting mobs have set fire to various buildings including the British Embassy

Thousands turn out in protest against the Shah

In Context
In 1953 the Shah had briefly gone into exile before being returned to power after a military coup.

However, the military was unable to help him a second time and he went into exile again in January 1979.

He died of cancer in exile in Egypt the following year.

Iran became a strictly Islamic state led by the formerly exiled religious leader Ayotollah Khomeni.

Anti-Western feeling reached fever pitch when militant students seized the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and held the 63 staff hostage.

The last embassy captive was eventually freed in 1981.

Following the death of Ayotollah Khomeni in 1989, Iran has gradually become a more secular but still conservative Islamic society.

But rapprochement with the West was hindered by Ayatollah Khomeini's religious edict in 1989 ordering the death of British author Salman Rushdie for offending Islam in his novel, the Satanic Verses.

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