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Thousands of US-based Iranians rally against Khatami

NEW YORK, Sept 6 (AFP) - Thousands of protesters gathered here Wednesday to denounce the presence of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami at the United Nations Millennium Summit. Photo here

The demonstration, organized by the Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran, took place on a small park that New York police had reserved for protests.

Penned behind barriers and with access to the nearby UN building blocked, protesters, many of them Iranian exiles from all over the United States, rallied to hear speeches and clamor for Khatami's immediate expulsion from the United States.

The protests against Khatami have already led to six arrests, police said. In one incident on Sunday, a man of Iranian origin was held after he threw plastic bags containing yellow paint at Khatami's motorcade.

Khatami, who became president in May 1997, arrived Sunday to take part in the three-day Millennium Summit which opens Wednesday.

The leader, viewed in some quarters as a force for reform in Iran, on Monday spoke to a gathering of US-based Iranians in a UN conference room at the UN, urging them to be patient in their demands for reform and avoid being "too rushed, not realistic."

More than two million Iranians, many of them western-educated specialists left their homeland after the 1979 revolution there. Some 800,000 people of Iranian descent now live in the United States.

The United States and Iran broke off ties following the revolution and the subsequent taking of hostages at the US embassy in Tehran.

Among the speakers at the rally were US member of Congress including US Senator Robert Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat who urged Khatami to end oppression and empty Iran's prisons.

Close by, several hundred members of the Falungong spiritual group, outlawed in China, conducted a peaceful rally demanding the release of members jailed by the Beijing government.


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