Police fire in the air and use tear gas to disperse protestors
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Iranian police fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse defiant pro-reform demonstrators in central Tehran. It was the largest protest since the country's disputed elections four weeks ago that saw president Ahmadinejad re-elected.
REUTERS - Iranian police fired in the air to disperse pro-reform demonstrators in central Tehran on Thursday, nearly four weeks after a disputed election triggered mass protests in the capital, a witness said.
The witness also said he saw police detaining several people among about 250 protesters who had gathered near Tehran University in defiance of a ban on gatherings for the anniversary of violent student demonstrations in 1999.
It appeared to be the worst outbreak of unrest in Tehran since security forces last month quelled days of opposition protests over the June 12 election, which moderate opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say was rigged in his favour.
"Police are shooting in the air and they have arrested several people," the witness said.
Another witness at the scene in downtown Tehran said: "Police used tear gas twice to disperse the crowd. There were also many Basij militia on motorbikes patrolling the area."
Police urged passers-by through loudspeakers to leave the area, the witnesses said.
"They were about 250 people who shouted in favour of (defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein) Mousavi and made the victory sign. Police dispersed them," one witness said.
There was none of the chanting of slogans against the clerical elite that could be heard during protests in Tehran and other cities after last month's presidential election.
Witnesses said riot police and Basij militia members fiercely loyal to Iran's most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were out in force in Tehran on Thursday for the anniversary of student protests in 1999, in which one student was killed.
"The area is closed to traffic and a lot of Basij forces on motorbikes are driving through the square," one witness said.
Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam said the force would strongly confront any anniversary protests.
"Police do not even allow formation of small groups," one witness said.
Iranian authorities have said at least 20 people were killed in violence after the June election as protesters clashed with riot police and Basij militia. The clerical establishment and Mousavi blame each other for the bloodshed.
The government accuses the West, particularly the United States and Britain, of inciting unrest after the election, which led to the most widespread street protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
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