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Clashes in Iran on Anniversary of Islamic Revolution

Iranian authorities clashed with opposition supporters Thursday as huge crowds rallied in Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.

Iranian opposition Web sites say security forces fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters gathering in central Tehran.

There are reports that leading reformist politicians Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami were attacked when they attended the rally.

The opposition also says authorities briefly detained Mr. Khatami's sister-in-law, Zahra Eshraghi, and her husband Mohammad Reza Khatami. The reason was not reported. Eshraghi is the grand-daughter of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

At Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed hundreds of thousands of people amassed to celebrate the national holiday.

In his address, Mr. Ahmadinejad praised the achievements of the Iranian people, railed against the West, and announced that Iranian scientists had produced the first batch of higher-grade nuclear fuel.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had urged their supporters to turn out on the streets for a peaceful demonstration.

The anniversary Thursday marks the 1979 ouster of Iran's monarchist government. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Iranians take part in rallies to celebrate the anniversary.

Mass anti-government protests broke out after Iran's disputed presidential election in June. Opposition leaders have accused President Ahmadinejad of stealing the vote.

The Middle East director at U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork, says the Iranian government is trying to use anniversary celebration to "deflect attention" from its human rights violations.

The rights group has released a new report that claims to show the Iranian government's crackdown on dissent since the election has been worse than previously reported. The report documents cases of extra-judicial killings, rapes and torture, and other serious rights violations.

There also are reports that Iranian authorities have slowed down Internet service in the country and have blocked Google's e-mail service, Gmail.

The California-based Internet company confirmed a sharp drop in e-mail traffic, and acknowledged that users in Iran are having trouble accessing Gmail.

In a statement, Google said it believes "people everywhere should have the ability to communicate freely online," adding, "sadly, sometimes it is not within our control."

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.