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Security clampdown on Iranian protests

Iran files complaint against U.S. 'interference'

From Kasra Naji
CNN Correspondent

Some 250 people joined in student protests at Teheran's Amir Kabir university Monday.
Some 250 people joined in student protests at Teheran's Amir Kabir university Monday.

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian security forces were out in force in the capital Monday to stop the seventh straight night of protests by university students demanding changes in the country's Islamic leadership.

The heavy security presence in the streets of Tehran appeared to have discouraged further demonstrations, though police reports indicated that security forces briefly clashed with demonstrators in at least two incidents in different parts of the city.

Some Iranian leaders have accused the United States of encouraging the demonstrators and launching a psychological war against Iran. Earlier in the day, Iran's Foreign Ministry said it had filed a formal protest of what it called U.S. interference in Iran's internal affairs.

"Yesterday we lodged a protest with the Swiss Embassy here, which protects the U.S. interests in Iran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said during a weekly meeting with reporters.

"We have strongly protested U.S. interference [in the internal affairs of Iran], and we reserve the right to pursue the matter through legal channels," he added.

The Iranian announcement came a day after President Bush expressed guarded support for the student demonstrations, describing them as " the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran."

Last year, Bush named Iran part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Iraq, then ruled by Saddam Hussein.

The protests in Tehran initially were called over plans -- backed by the conservative clerics -- to privatize some universities, but they developed into antigovernment demonstrations.

University students demanding reform have battled armed followers of the country's conservative spiritual leadership in a string of bloody street brawls since Tuesday.

Police block a Tehran street during a protest against the establishment.
Police block a Tehran street during a protest against the establishment.

The students and their supporters have been calling on Iran's all-powerful spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down.

Early Tuesday, traffic remained heavy on some streets around Tehran University, the scene of student demonstrations in previous nights.

Many Tehran residents have been driving their cars through the area in a show of solidarity with the students, and their presence on the streets -- albeit from the safety of their cars -- is seen as an indication of widespread discontent among Iranians, many of whom openly say they have had enough of the country's clerical regime.

Security forces have been keeping vigilante groups away from the trouble spots, a tactic that seems to have calmed the situation. Last week, Islamic vigilantes wielding machetes and knives attacked students in their dormitories, provoking further violent clashes.

During the past seven nights, authorities said, about 100 people have been arrested, but none of those detained were described as students. Officials referred to the arrested as "hooligans" or "counter-revolutionaries."


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