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Iranians urged to turn out in millions for revolution anniversary

TEHRAN, Feb 10 (AFP) - The Islamic regime is calling on Iranians to turn out in their millions Thursday in a bid to demonstrate its continuing power to mobilise exactly 20 years after the overthrow of the last imperial government.

"Every year the revolution's enemies look carefully to see whether people will participate," warned Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Let people show them their continued support and backing for the revolution with their overwhelming presence," he said.

State institutions, political groups and media all urged people to turn out in huge numbers at the demonstrations planned in all of Iran's main cities.

Six large processions have been planned in the capital, converging on a vast square west of the capital where the shah built a triumphal arch to celebrate Iran's modernising monarchy.

Renamed Freedom Square by the Islamic authorities immediately after the revolution, each year it is the venue for the country's largest anniversary demonstration attended by hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

But this year for the 20th anniversary, the authorities are calling for an even bigger turnout than usual.

The regime's most popular figure, moderate President Mohammad Khatami, will attend the demonstration, along with members of his reformist government.

The government has worked hard to give this year's celebrations a genuinely popular flavour, with the capital's main thoroughfares decked out with flowers, banners and coloured lights.

In recent days state radio has broadcast a selection of old revolutionary songs, designed to remind Iranians of the heady days of the 1979 revolution, as well as cheerful tunes befitting what is meant to be a nationwide jamboree.

The conservative judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi said he would free an unspecified number of common-law prisoners to mark the anniversary of the revolution.

Newspapers are full of notices from private and state-owned companies congratulating the government and people on the anniversary, which state radio compared to the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Moslem fasting month of Ramadan.

People have been urged to climb onto their balconies on Wednesday night to shout "Allah-u-Akbar" (God is Greatest), as they did 20 years ago in defiance of curfews imposed by the imperial government.

But the authorities have been forced to acknowledge the mounting problems faced by ordinary people as a collapse in the value of Iran's main export oil has led to a worsening economic crisis here.

"Among the major problems facing the country today are unemployment, inflation, financial corruption, nepotism, favouritism and, above all, the lack of expert plans for developing the country's enormous potential," the English-language Tehran Times admitted frankly on the anniversary's eve.

But the paper urged Iranians to forget their problems for one day to show their continued support for the 20-year-old revolution.

"Despite all these (problems), the faithful Iranian people still adhere wholeheartedly to the ideals and principles of the Islamic Revolution," the paper said.


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