DUBAI (Reuters) - Thousands of Iranians chanted “Death to America” near the old U.S. embassy on Monday, the 40th anniversary on the seizure of the mission, with the country’s army chief comparing the United States with a poisonous scorpion intent on harming Iran.
Crowds packed the streets around the former mission, dubbed the “den of spies” after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Hardline students stormed the embassy soon after the fall of the U.S.-backed shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days. The two countries have been enemies ever since.
The U.S. and Israeli flags and effigies of President Donald Trump were set ablaze during marches and rallies that were held in some 1,000 communities across the country, state media said.
“Our fight with America is over our independence, over not submitting to bullying, over values, beliefs and our religion,” army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said in a speech at the rally outside the former embassy.
“They (Americans) will continue their hostilities, like the proverbial poisonous scorpion whose nature it is to sting and cannot be stopped unless it is crushed,” Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV.
The White House said after four decades Iran’s clerical rulers continued to “target innocent civilians for use as pawns in its failed foreign relations”, its spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“Until Iran changes this and its other hostile behavior, we will continue to impose crippling sanctions,” she said.
“It (the Iranian regime) can choose peace over hostage taking, assassinations, sabotage, maritime hijacking, and attacks on global oil markets ... we support the Iranian people. It is time for the Iranian regime to do the same.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all state matters, on Sunday renewed a ban on talks with Iran’s longtime foe the United States, describing the two countries as implacable foes.
“Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100% wrong,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament gave initial approval to a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about “America’s crimes”. Lawmakers also chanted “Death to America”.
Relations between the two countries have reached a crisis over the past year since U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which it accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.
The United States has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force it to negotiate to reach a wider deal.
Iran has left room for diplomacy, saying talks are possible if the United States returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.
Additional reporting by Makini Brice in Washington, Dubai newsroom; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Robert Birsel, William Maclean