Iranian protest leaders met with security clampdown
Ahmadinejad says he will not give in to 'bullying' over nuclear programme
Published 12/02/2010 | 05:00
Opposition leaders were attacked and security forces flooded the streets of Iranian cities yesterday to put down protests during rallies to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic.
The unofficial leaders of the "Green" movement were met by police and plain-clothes security forces as they tried to join government rallies.
There were contradictory reports as to whether Mir-Hossein Mousavi, defeated in last year's presidential election, succeeded in getting through. But cars carrying another reformist, Mehdi Karroubi, and a former president, Mohammad Khatami, were seen surrounded by plain-clothed security forces.
Mr Karroubi's car windows were smashed and his bodyguards came under attack, his son, Hossein, told reporters. His other son, Ali, was temporarily detained, as were Mr Khatami's brother, Reza, and sister-in-law, Zahra Eshraghi, a granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The government rallies, an annual event marked by calls of "Death to America" from huge crowds, commemorate the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in 1979 and the subsequent flight of the Shah.
Government news agencies said tens of millions of people attended rallies across the country. Television pictures showed huge crowds in Freedom Square in Tehran. Opposition activists abroad said people had been paid to attend. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the crowds that the West feared Iran's "greatness and glory".
The government had been warning for days that no dissent would be tolerated.
The internet was slowed in advance and mobile phone networks cut, but footage was still posted to sites such as YouTube showing crowds shouting "Death to the Dictator" before being broken up by militia.
Some analysts believe Iran has been studying China's experience in repressing dissent. Tehran arrested scores of activists. One Iranian blog posted pictures of what it said were Chinese-supplied armoured vehicles with water cannon being held in reserve.
Foreign media have been banned from reporting on the protests while selected reporters were invited to film the speeches in the presence of minders.
Out of their view, tear gas was fired at groups of protesters, while squads of the black-clad, plain-clothes men took up positions around key regime buildings. The biggest protests took place in Sadeghieh Square, a mile from the main government rally. Police moved in with batons and fired air guns over the demonstrators' heads, according to witnesses.
"They won and we lost," one anonymous protester said. "But this doesn't mean we have been defeated for good."
Meanwhile, Mr Ahmadinejad announced yesterday that Iran was producing its first uranium enriched to 20pc and defied the world to stop him.
"I want to announce with a loud voice that the first package of 20pc fuel was produced and provided to the scientists," he told crowds in Tehran.
He said the plant in the city of Natanz was capable of enriching uranium to the levels necessary to build a viable nuclear weapon and could triple its production of low-enriched uranium. But he insisted the country did not intend to construct a device.
He attacked Western attempts to curtail Iran's nuclear programme. "We told them the Iranian nation will never give in to bullying and illogical remarks," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)