Iran General NewsTehran police to guard against festival demos

Tehran police to guard against festival demos

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ImageAP: Iranian police will be deploying their forces onto the streets of the capital Tehran on Tuesday evening in great strength to counter any possible opposition protests on the occasion of a national festival, a semiofficial news agency reported. The Associated Press

By NASSER KARIMI

ImageTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian police will be deploying their forces onto the streets of the capital Tehran on Tuesday evening in great strength to counter any possible opposition protests on the occasion of a national festival, a semiofficial news agency reported.

Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia told the ISNA news agency his forces were deployed to prevent "any event in the city," in an apparent reference to political activity.

Since the disputed presidential election in June, opposition protesters have used national holidays as opportunities to hold protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Tuesday night, Iranians celebrate Chahar-Shanbe Suri, a ceremony held ahead of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, around a bonfire to cleanse the soul.

The festival dates back to the time when Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in ancient Persia before the advent of Islam and is frowned upon by conservatives who say the feast contradicts Islamic traditions.

Gen. Sajjadinia said the heavy police presence would prevent any unpleasantness from occuring during the the festival.

He said riding motorbikes, a common form of transportation in Tehran's congested streets, would be banned that night.

Neither of the main opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi who ran against the president, have called for demonstrations Tuesday, but many opposition Web sites have suggested using the occasion to stage protest gatherings.

Opposition website, Norooznews, reported that Mousavi told a group of activists the opposition movement, known as Green Movement, would continue in the coming Iranian year.

"We have to call the next year the year of patience and resistance, until the aims of the Green Movement are achieved," he said.

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