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Iran Celebrates Anniversary with Anti-American Protests - 2002-02-11

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran Monday to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution and demonstrate against the United States. Iran's president included some advice for U.S. leaders in his address to the demonstrators.

In a speech marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said "the immature leaders" of the U.S. government should "wake up and change their policy toward Iran."

The Iranian president, speaking in Tehran's Azadi Square, urged all Iranians to demonstrate to show unity against what he called "baseless, erroneous and insulting" comments against Iran.

President Bush, during his January 29 State of the Union address, said Iran was part of what he called "an axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea in developing weapons of mass destruction and sponsoring terrorism.

Washington also accuses Tehran of attempting to destabilize the government of Afghanistan and of allowing members of the Taleban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network to flee into Iran. Iran denies the charges.

In his speech, Mr. Khatami said "the decisions of immature American leaders are making their country more and more hated by other people, and the American people," he said, "are thus in conflict with other peoples."

Estimates of the size of the demonstration range from 300,000-400,000. Fleets of buses reportedly brought tens of thousands of people from outlying areas into the capital.

Marchers burned effigies of both President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Gold coins were given as prizes for the best effigies of each man.

Demonstrators cried out, "We are awake and hate America."

Twenty three years ago Shiite Muslim fundamentalists overthrew a regime led by the Shah of Iran. Each year since then huge demonstrations have taken place across Iran marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.