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TURMOIL IN EGYPT | MIDDLE EAST

Uprising heralds end of US influence, Iran says

By Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press / February 12, 2011

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TEHRAN — Iran’s president declared yesterday that Egypt’s uprising shows a new Middle East is emerging that will doom Israel and break free of American “interference,’’ even as Tehran clamps down harder on its own domestic opposition movement.

Iran has sought to portray the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as a replay of its 1979 Islamic Revolution — the anniversary of which was marked yesterday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech and state-organized rallies that included chants of support for Egypt’s antigovernment protests.

“Despite all the [West’s] complicated and satanic designs . . . a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and US interference, a place where the arrogant powers will have no place,’’ Ahmadinejad told a crowd in Tehran.

Iran’s state TV broadcast simultaneous live footage of the gathering with shots from Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square, the center of Egypt’s protests since late January.

In Iran’s calculation, the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak equals a blow to US influence in the region and carries echoes of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which deposed the Western-allied monarchy and brought hard-line clerics to power.

Iran has been highly critical of Egypt’s regime for its pro-US policies and peace pact with Israel.

At the same time, Iranian authorities have been pushed into a corner by their support for the Egyptian uprising.

Iranian opposition groups have called for marches on Monday to express solidarity with Egypt’s demonstrators. Iranian officials consider it a backdoor attempt to revive antigovernment demonstrations and have warned of sharp crackdowns on efforts to return to the streets.

White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor denounced Iran’s “hypocrisy’’ for claiming to support Egypt’s people while smothering internal voices of dissent.

Tens of thousands marched down Tehran’s main boulevard in state-organized rallies, some chanting in support of Egypt’s antigovernment protesters.

Ahmadinejad, speaking before Mubarak resigned, urged Egyptian protesters to persevere.

“It’s your right to be free. It’s your right to exercise your will and sovereignty . . . and choose the type of government and the rulers,’’ said Ahmadinejad.

Last week, Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, turned the tables on Iran. He said Iranian officials should listen to the calls from within their own country rather than “distracting the Iranian people’s attention by hiding behind what is happening in Egypt.’’

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