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US Applauds Anti-Government Demonstrators in Iran - 2003-06-12

The United States Thursday applauded anti-government demonstrators in Iran, who the State Department said are drawing attention to the "destructive policies" of the Islamic government in Tehran. Iranian authorities accuse the United States of fomenting the protests.

The comments here follow what are described as the biggest public demonstrations in Iran in recent months, with several thousand people turning out in Tehran Tuesday and Wednesday to protest restrictive policies of Islamic authorities.

At a briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Iranians, like all people, have a right to determine their own destiny and the United States "fully supports" their aspirations to live in freedom:

"We applaud the Iranian people for calling attention to the destructive policies of the Iranian government that do such a disserve to its population," he said. "Iran's support for terrorism, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and denial of human rights deter the kind of foreign investment that could help create jobs for numerous unemployed and under-employed Iranians."

Mr. Boucher said the United States "views with concern" the arrests of protestors he said were put in detention simply for voicing their political views. He said U.S. officials expect the regime to protect their human rights and release them.

News reports from Tehran said uniformed and plainclothes policemen with batons broke up Wednesdays protest near Tehran University and about 80 people were arrested.

The reports said several motorcycles were set ablaze and some shop windows smashed as the protestors dispersed.

Iranian authorities have alleged the protests are being incited by U.S. broadcasts. Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech Thursday the United States is trying to create a chasm between the regime and the public.

Spokesman Boucher said he was not going to respond to the various Iranian charges.

The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1979 though they do have periodic contacts including meetings this year in Geneva.