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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iranian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters

VOA News February 14, 2011

Iranian security forces have fired tear gas on Monday to disperse thousands of Iranians rallying in support of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Witnesses say riot police, many of them on motorbikes, fanned out across central Tehran, as opposition groups vowed to rally despite the government's rejection of their request for a permit.

Security forces have deployed on the streets of Tehran and blocked off the home of an opposition leader.

Reformist leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi said they called the gathering to show solidarity with uprisings that ousted authoritarian leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. Iranian authorities warned the reformists against proceeding with the rally, calling it a ploy to mobilize an anti-government protest and revive their Green movement.

Mousavi's website, Kaleme, says Iranian police stationed several cars outside his Tehran home Monday to prevent him and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, from taking part in the planned gathering. It says authorities also cut telephone lines at Mousavi's house and severed his mobile phone connection.

Karroubi also has been placed under house arrest in Tehran in recent days. Kaleme called the Iranian government's moves a sign of "weakness and fear."

Mousavi and Karroubi led Iran's last major anti-government protests in 2009, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to protest the disputed re-election of conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that June.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, on a visit to Tehran, called on Middle Eastern governments to listen to the demands of their people, although he did not mention Iran directly.

The two reformists ran against Mr. Ahmadinejad and accused him of rigging the vote, a charge the government denies.

The 2009 protests ended in a violent crackdown by Iranian militiamen loyal to the clerical establishment. Scores of people were killed and wounded during the demonstrations, which lasted several months.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised this year's revolts in Egypt and Tunisia as an Islamic awakening, akin to the 1979 revolution that ousted Iran's U.S.-backed shah. But, Iranian reformists see the Arab protest movements as more similar to their struggle against Iran's authoritarian clerical rulers.

On Saturday, U.S. National Security advisor Tom Donilon urged Tehran to give the Iranian people the same rights to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and communicate that Egyptian protesters were granted in Cairo.

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