Iranian police clashed on Wednesday with supporters of Iran's opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi who had gathered in a Tehran street as the country marks the 30th anniversary of the storming of the U.S. embassy.
Thousands of Iranian security forces had assembled on the streets of Tehran to prevent any gathering by the opposition.
"Police clashed with hundreds of protesters. They were chanting 'Death to dictators'. Police used batons to disperse them," a witness said.
Another witness said police fired teargas at the crowd.
Opposition leaders Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi had urged their supporters to take to the streets to stage protests against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"There are hundreds, chanting 'God is greatest'. Police and Basij militia are outnumbering the protesters," the witness
Iran's Revolutionary Guards and its allied Basij militia have warned the opposition to avoid using any anti-U.S. rally to revive protests against the clerical establishment after June's disputed presidential election which Ahmadinejad won.
The unrest that erupted after the vote was the worst in Iran in the past three decades.
"Hundreds of police, riot police, Basij militia and plainclothes are in the main squares," another witness said.
"Police cars with black curtains have been parked in the squares to take away protesters."
Another witness also said dozens of police were walking around the British embassy in central Tehran.
"Dozens of police and Basij forces are around the Russian embassy as well," the witness said.
Some reformist websites have called on people to gather outside the Russian embassy, in an apparent protest at Moscow's recognition of Ahmadinejad's re-election on June 12.
Anti-Western rallies usually take place outside the old U.S. embassy - now called the "den of espionage" in Iran - to mark
Iranian militants stormed the embassy on Nov. 4 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Some leaders of the student militants who seized the U.S. embassy shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, along with dozens of moderate political figures, have been imprisoned since the election in June.
In September, opposition demonstrators clashed with government backers and police at annual pro-Palestinian rallies.
The authorities deny vote rigging, and have portrayed the unrest as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state.
Writer Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 35 mins ago
TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian security forces using batons and tear gas stormed anti-government marches in Tehran on Wednesday during state-sanctioned rallies marking the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy, witnesses and state media reported.
Witnesses told The Associated Press that security forces — mainly paramilitary units from the Revolutionary Guard — swept through an opposition march in central Tehran, clubbing some protesters and kicking and slapping others.
There were no immediate reports on injuries or arrests in the clashes in Haf-e-Tir Square — about a half-mile (one kilometer) from the annual anti-American gathering outside the former U.S. Embassy.
The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from authorities. Media restrictions imposed after the disputed presidential elections in June limit journalists to covering state media and government-approved events, such as the rally outside the former U.S. Embassy.
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that police used tear gas in other parts of the city to disperse protesters, making their first major show of force on the streets since September.
Iranian authorities had warned protesters against attempts to disrupt or overshadow the annual gathering outside the former U.S. Embassy, which was stormed by militants in 1979 in the turbulent months after the Islamic Revolution. A total of 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
Security forces fanned out around Tehran at daybreak on Wednesday after opposition leaders refused to call off their appeals for counter protests.
Volunteer militiamen linked to the Revolutionary Guard patrolled the streets on motorcycles — a familiar sight during the unrest following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June.
Many marchers Wednesday wore green scarves or wristbands that symbolized the campaign of Mir Housein Mousavi, who claims Ahmadinejad stole the election through vote fraud. Mousavi and his allies, including former President Mohammad Khatami, appeared to encourage opposition protesters to return to the streets.
The full extent of the opposition marches was not immediately clear. Hundreds were seen in Haf-e-Tir Square, some chanting "Death to the Dictator."
Other witnesses — also speaking on condition of anonymity — said about 2,000 students at Tehran University faced off against security forces, but there were no immediate reports of violence.
The clashes and confrontations marked the first significant public display of opposition unity since marches in late September that coincided with state-sponsored protests against Israel.
Authorities appeared determined to avoid opposition rallies overshadowing the 30th anniversary of the embassy takeover.
Thousands of people gathered outside the former embassy, waving anti-American banners and signs praising the Islamic Revolution.
The main speaker, hard-line lawmaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, denounced the United States as the main enemy of Iran. He did not mention the talks with the West, including the United States, on Iran's nuclear program.
In Washington, President Barack Obama noted the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy and urged the two countries to move beyond the "path of sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation."
The hostage crisis "deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice," Obama said in a statement.
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