The day of the official anniversary rally in Tehran, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions against four Iranian firms said to be owned by the Pasdaran, the countrys dominant military force. The Treasurys move freezes assets that the four companies have in the United States and bans U.S. firms from doing business with them.
Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman introduced a bill in Congress to condemn human rights abusers in Iran. Senators Sam Brownback and John Cornyn introduced the Iran Democratic Transition Act, which would provide nonmilitary aid to groups in Iran opposed to the government.
Security forces block protesters
Hundreds of thousands turned out in Iranian cities for the official February 11 celebrations. Security forces succeeded in barring most marchers who, responding to a call by opposition politicians, planned to raise demands for more democratic rights at the celebrations.
At the main rally in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave the keynote speech, focusing on Irans right to nuclear power and freedom from imperialist domination. He said little about domestic opponents who are competing to run the capitalist government and who call for lifting restrictions on democratic rights.
Ahmadinejad declared Iran is now a nuclear state, saying that Iranian scientists in the last few days had achieved 20 percent enrichment of uranium and were able to enrich it up to 80 percent. A nuclear bomb requires 90 percent enriched uranium.
When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it, Ahmadinejad said at the rally. The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs we would announce it publicly.
The International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations told reporters that it is monitoring the 20 percent enrichment process, but its inspectors did not know if the enrichment had succeeded.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to 20 percent. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said his government did not think Iran could reach 80 percent enrichment at this time. But both Washington and Paris pointed to Ahmadinejads speech as reason to speed adoption of more anti-Iran sanctions by the UN.
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who both ran unsuccessfully against Ahmadinejad in last Junes presidential elections, had called on their supporters to rally February 11 to demand freedom of political prisoners and press, the right to form political parties, and free elections.
The Iranian government called for unity on the day of the anniversary while threatening to crack down on anyone raising the issue of democratic rights during the events. A number of people were arrested in the days before the anniversary, some of them accused of conspiring to disrupt the anniversary of the revolution on behalf of the United States, a move designed to intimidate protesters.
Various Web sites of opposition groups reported pro-democracy forces turned out in the cities of Shiraz, Ahwaz, Isfahan, and Mashhad. In Tehran, security forces blocked most of those suspected of opposition sympathies from entering the official rally site and dispersed groups of protesters before they could grow very large. Groups of hundreds at best gathered and chanted slogans, according to media reports. This marks the first time since the opposition began using national holidays to stage rallies that the government has succeeded in outmobilizing them.
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