Obama Notes Anniversary of Iran Embassy Takeover
Islamic militants stormed the embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, seizing its occupants. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
The crisis "deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice," Obama said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
"This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation," Obama added. "I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. ... We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community."
The Iranian government backed events Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of the takeover, including an annual anti-American rally outside the brick walls of the former embassy compound. Thousands of people gathered outside the former embassy, waving anti-American banners and signs praising the Islamic Revolution.
Simultaneous anti-government marches were stormed by Iranian security forces using batons and tear gas, witnesses and state media reported.
Witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from authorities, told The Associated Press that security forces -- mainly paramilitary units from the Revolutionary Guard -- swept through an opposition march in central Tehran, clubbing some protesters and kicking and slapping others.
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that police used tear gas in other parts of the city to disperse protesters, making their first major show of force on the streets since September.
Earlier, Obama praised opposition protesters who took to the streets after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June. "The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history," Obama said. "The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice and their courageous pursuit of universal rights."
Associated Press writer Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran contributed to this report.