Iranians burn US flags to mark 1979 embassy seizure

AFP , Friday 2 Nov 2012

Thousands of Iranians burn US flags as they marked the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 hostage crisis

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures as he speaks at a campaign stop at Meadow Event Park, in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Thousands of Iranians chanting "Death to America" burnt US flags on Friday to mark the 33rd anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, just days before the American presidential election.

The demonstrators also chanted anti-British and anti-Israeli slogans, and burnt Israeli flags, as they gathered in front of the site of the former embassy, dubbed the "den of spies" by the authorities who sponsor the annual commemoration, an AFP photographer reported.

This year's rally came just days before Tuesday's US presidential election in which Republican challenger Mitt Romney has made Iran's controversial nuclear programme a top foreign policy issue.

"The greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear Iran," Romney said in a campaign debate with Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

Iran dismisses Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is cover for a drive for a weapons capability, insisting that it is for peaceful power generation and medical purposes only.

The anniversary of the November 4, 1979 embassy seizure, which saw Islamist students hold 52 US diplomats hostage for 444 days, is commemorated in Iran according to the Persian calendar and this year fell on November 2.

The hostage-taking, which came just months after the Islamic revolution overthrew the US-backed shah, was seen as a big factor in then US president Jimmy Carter's loss of the 1980 election.

Now painted with anti-US murals, the former embassy site is currently a training and educational facility controlled by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

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