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Iran: Iranians mark anniversary of U.S. embassy takeover

A head-to-toe veiled Iranian woman walks past a satirized drawing of the Statue of Liberty, painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, ...

A head-to-toe veiled Iranian woman walks past a satirized drawing of the Statue of Liberty, painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, ...

Thousands of anti-American demonstrators marked the anniversary of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in a rally today held under tight security but without challenges from opposition groups.

The annual pro-government event outside the former embassy compound brought clashes and chaos to central Tehran last year after protesters held counter-marches over their claims of massive vote rigging in the presidential election.

But it was among the last major displays of opposition anger on the streets as embattled authorities stepped up crackdowns and threats to quell the most serious domestic unrest since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

This year, security forces were on high alert for any hints of dissent.

Iran said today it has arrested four suspected members of a British-linked cell blamed for at least five killings since 2008 in a struggle for greater rights in the country's Kurdish region.

State-run Press TV quoted a statement from Iran's Intelligence Ministry saying the arrested men are part of an Iranian Kurdish rebel faction known as the Koumaleh Party. It claimed the men were based in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and received orders from a Koumaleh commander going by the name Jalil Fattahi. Iran says Fattahi lives in Britain.

The British government dismissed the allegations as "another in a long line of slurs against the United Kingdom from the government of Iran."

The reported arrests follow increased violence in the Kurdish area of western Iran, where various groups have been battling for decades for more autonomy and freedoms. The fight mirrors a wider and bloodier campaign by Kurdish rebels in Turkey since the 1980s.

The claims further strain Iran's tense relations with Britain. Iran has long accused the British of supporting opposition groups, a charge that London denies.

"There is a long history of baseless Iranian allegations against the U.K.," a British government statement said. "This is just the latest." It added that Britain "does not support or encourage terrorist activity in Iran, or anywhere else in the world."

The Iranian statement did not give details of the slayings allegedly linked to the arrested men.

Last month, gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in Sanandaj, the main city in Iran's Kurdistan province, killing four officers and a bystander. In September, a bombing killed 12 people at a military parade in the Kurdish city of Mahabad.

Although Britain maintains diplomatic relations with Iran, relations are deeply strained.

Iran has accused Britain of joining with the U.S. and others to stoke unrest after the disputed presidential elections last year. Britain also has backed harsher sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

The West suspects Iran's nuclear program seeks to develop atomic weapons. Iran says it only seeks reactors for energy and medical uses.

The Press TV report also referred to the Britain's spy agency chief, John Sawers, who in October lauded the "intelligence success" that led to the disclosure last year of a secret uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom.