- Associated Press - Monday, February 14, 2011

TEHRAN — Clashes between Iranian police and tens of thousands of protesters wracked central Tehran on Monday with security forces beating and firing tear gas at opposition supporters looking to evoke Egypt’s recent popular uprising.

The opposition called for a demonstration Monday in solidarity with Egypt’s popular revolt that a few days earlier forced the president there to resign after nearly 30 years in office. The rally is the first major show of strength for Iran’s cowed opposition in more than a year.

Police used tear gas against the protesters in central Tehran’s Enghelab, or Revolution, square and in Imam Hossein square, as well as in other nearby main streets. Demonstrators responded by setting garbage cans on fire to protect themselves from the stinging white clouds.

“We support you Mousavi,” some of the demonstrators chanted, referring to a prominent opposition leader. “An Iranian dies but doesn’t accept humiliation” and “Death to the dictator,” they said, referring to hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Security forces on motorcycles could also be seen chasing protesters through the streets, according to eyewitnesses.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, greets the Turkish delegation as his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, second left, looks on, during an official welcoming ceremony for him, in Tehran Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, greets the Turkish delegation as his Turkish ... more >

Foreign media are banned from covering street protests in Iran.

Following the announcements by the opposition that they would attempt to hold a new rally in soldarity with the Egypt uprising, Iran’s security forces cut phone lines and blockaded the home of an opposition leader in attempts to stop him attending the planned rally.

Police and militiamen poured onto the streets of Tehran to challenge the marches, which officials worry could turn into demonstrations against Iran’s ruling system.

The security clampdown is reminiscent of the backlash that crushed a wave of massive protests after Mr. Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June 2009. But opposition supporters revived a tactic from the unrest, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great, from rooftops and balconies into the early hours Monday in a sign of defiance toward Iran’s leadership.

The reformist website kaleme.com said police stationed several cars in front of the home of Mir Hossein Mousavi ahead of the demonstration called for Monday in central Tehran.

Mr. Mousavi and fellow opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi have been under house arrest since last week after they asked the government for permission to hold a rally on Feb. 14 in support of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

On Sunday, the opposition renewed its call to supporters to rally, and accused the government of hypocrisy by voicing support for the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while refusing to allow Iranian political activists to stage a peaceful demonstration.

“These elements are fully aware of the illegality of their demand and know that they won’t get permission for revolt,” Interior Ministry official Mahdi Alikhani was quoted by the official Islamic Republican News Agency as saying late Sunday.

Esmaeil Gerami Moghaddam, spokesman for Karroubi’s National Confidence Party, countered on the party’s website that under Iran’s constitution there is no need for government permission to hold a peaceful rally.

Across central Tehran, riot police, many on motorbikes, fanned out to prevent any demonstration, witnesses said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of fears of reprisals from authorities.

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