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Tehran protests reach 3rd day

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 13, 2003

TEHRAN, Iran - Hundreds of protesters called for the death of Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei as thousands of onlookers watched early today, the third day of demonstrations in the capital despite threats by the hard-line regime to crack down to end the disturbances.

The three nights of demonstrations have produced the largest outpouring of opposition against Iran's leadership in months, involving hundreds of young Iranians, some still teenagers.

They shouted chants including, "Khamenei the traitor must be hanged," "Guns and tanks and fireworks, the mullahs must be killed," and "Student prisoners must be freed," witnesses said.

Thousands of people looked on, sometimes clapping with the protesters and taking up their chants. Residents near the university hospital left their doors open so that demonstrators could find quick shelter if the authorities cracked down.

Though the demonstrators seemed disorganized, with no apparent leadership, the country's hard-line clerics were clearly taking them seriously.

Khamenei, in a speech broadcast on state television and radio, referred to violence in 1999 when security forces and extremist supporters of hard-line clerics attacked students protesting media restrictions.

"It should not be allowed that a group of people contaminate society and universities with riots and insecurity, and then attribute it to the pious youth," he said.

But the protesters ignored Khamenei's warning. Some in the crowd urged demonstrators to gather again after a soccer match tonight between two popular teams. They said demonstrations would continue until the July anniversary of the 1999 protests.

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