Iran says makes arrests before revolution day rally
Iran has arrested several people who were preparing to disrupt rallies on February 11 marking the 1979 Islamic revolution, police said on Wednesday, in a clear warning to opposition supporters planning new protests.
Opposition leaders have called on supporters to take to the streets on Thursday, raising the risk of renewed violence eight months after a disputed election plunged Iran into crisis.
The authorities say the pro-reform opposition will face a firm response if it tries to hijack state-sponsored celebrations of the anniversary, when they say the Iranian nation in a display of unity will “punch the faces” of its Western enemies.
Apart from turmoil at home, the hardline leadership is also facing increased international pressure after the Islamic state announced this week an expansion of nuclear work which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the international community was moving “fairly quickly” toward imposing broader sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer.
Events will be held across Iran to mark the revolution anniversary but the main official gathering will be at Tehran’s Azadi square, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to speak to a crowd which usually numbers tens of thousands.
Opposition websites say the day belongs to all Iranians and have urged supporters to attend the rally too.
“We are closely watching the activities of the sedition movement and several people who were preparing to disrupt the February 11 rallies were arrested,” Fars News Agency quoted police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam as saying, giving no details.
Playing down possible unrest, the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying: “There will be no worries in this regard. We are fully prepared for holding a safe and glorious rally.”
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