|Iranian authorities praised |
police for cracking down on Basij
Iran’s foreign ministry said US officials were over-exaggerating the significance of student protests.
Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran on Saturday night and early Sunday morning for the fifth day of anti-government demonstrations.
The latest demonstrations were not violent since protesters remained in their vehicles.
“The Americans ignore the presence of millions of people to welcome the Supreme Leader and the President but they call the protests of a few individuals the voice of the people,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement.
On Saturday the White House denounced Tehran’s crackdown on protests, saying it was “alarmed” by reports of arrests, and called on Iran to release detained demonstrators.
US President George W Bush has branded Iran as part of the so-called "axis of evil", along with North Korea and Iraq.
Since Washington toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein it has stepped up rhetoric against Iran, accusing it of interfering in Iraq, and developing nuclear weapons.
Parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi said Iran was united in its rejection of US pressure.
“All the differences and discussions among the children of the (1979 Islamic) revolution are differences of taste but they are all united against the enemy,” he said in a speech to parliament.
Protesters have demonstrated against the ruling clergy and President Mohammad Khatami, whom they accuse of failing to deliver promised changes after six years in power.
Karroubi praised Iranian police for arresting scores of Basij militiamen who had attacked demonstrators with knives and chains. The Basij consider themselves guardians of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
On Saturday Basij volunteers stormed three university dormitories, smashing furniture and attacking demonstrators.
The student news agency ISNA said at least 15 students were wounded, one critically, when Basij members attacked them inside a university dormitory complex.
ISNA also reported clashes in the southern cities of Shiraz and Ahvaz on Saturday during which one demonstrator was stabbed to death, a report denied by authorities.
Clashes were also reported between about 500 demonstrators and police in the central city of Isfahan.
The Iranian authorities arrested two prominent opposition leaders on Saturday, and were searching for a third.
Karroubi also called on families to prevent their children from participating in protests and “being tricked by some people abroad”.
US-based Iranian TV stations have urged Iranians over the past week to take to the streets and join the student protests.
“We have our own democracy and we will remove the faults in our country,” Karroubi said.
Addressing the United States he said, “ You poor people don’t have democracy. Our president wins votes and your president wins an election through judicial pressure.”