TEHRAN (Reuters) - Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" and vowed not to yield to U.S. pressure over Iran's nuclear program at a demonstration on Sunday marking the 28th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy.
Students burned the Stars and Stripes outside the leafy compound in downtown Tehran that once housed the U.S. mission stormed by radical students on November 4, 1979, almost 10 months after the U.S.-backed shah left into exile.
"The crowd shows that pressures from abroad cannot weaken our national will and Islamic unity," said Abdollah Salehi, a 22-year-old Tehran University student.
"Sanctions will not lead to any result."
The United States severed diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic in 1980, a few months after the seizure. Now, the two foes are embroiled in a row over Iran's atomic plans, which Washington says are aimed at building atomic bombs.
Tehran insists its plans are peaceful but its failure to allay suspicions has prompted the U.N. Security Council to impose two rounds of limited sanctions on Iran. Washington is pressing for a third round of sterner measures.
"We are not afraid of sanctions," read one banner.
Another read "We will not compromise with America even for a moment", quoting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.
Washington insists it wants diplomacy to end the standoff but has not ruled out military action if that route fails.
"We came here to show America that it cannot do a damn thing and the Iranian nation will destroy them if they invade our country," said Mostafa Jafarizadeh, 16.
Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said the crowd had gathered to "pay homage to this great and glorious event" of the takeover in which 52 Americans were held for 444 days. In a speech, he said Iran would not give up its atomic programme.
Some teenagers, however, were enjoying time out from class.
"It's worth coming just to be out of school for a couple of hours," said Alireza, 15, who only gave his first name.
Bahman, 14, playing on the sidelines of the crowd with some schoolmates, said he had been brought by this teachers.
Some of the student leaders who took over the U.S. embassy are now among Iran's most liberal pro-reform politicians.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a leader of one student faction 27 years ago, at first opposed the U.S. embassy seizure. He proposed taking over the Soviet embassy instead, leading hostage-takers say.
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