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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Iran displays missile on anniversary of US embassy takeover

It comes amid uncertainty about its nuclear deal with world powers after US president Donald Trump announced he was decertifying the accord

Iranian schoolgirls flash the victory sign in front of the former US embassy in an annual gathering to mark its 1979 takeover, while a surface-to-surface Sejjil missile is displayed by the Revolutionary Guard behind them in Tehran on November 4, 2017. Vahid Salemi / AP
Iranian schoolgirls flash the victory sign in front of the former US embassy in an annual gathering to mark its 1979 takeover, while a surface-to-surface Sejjil missile is displayed by the Revolutionary Guard behind them in Tehran on November 4, 2017. Vahid Salemi / AP

Iran on Saturday displayed a surface-to-surface missile as part of events marking the anniversary of the 1979 US embassy takeover and hostage crisis.

It comes amid uncertainty about its nuclear deal with world powers after US president Donald Trump announced he was decertifying the accord.

Thousands gathered at the former US embassy in downtown Tehran where a missile, believed to be a 2,000-kilometre-range solid-fuel Sejjil, was on display. It was the first time Iran had displayed a missile during the annual gathering.

Later in the day, the semi-official Tasnim news agency, which has ties to the elite Revolutionary Guard, said the missile was a Qadr-F that has the same range.

On Tuesday, the head of the Revolutionary Guard said Iran's supreme leader had restricted the range of ballistic missiles manufactured in the country to 2,000 kilometres — limiting their reach to only regional targets. It appeared to be an effort by Iranian authorities to contrast its missile programme against those of countries like North Korea, which now uses its arsenal to threaten the United States.

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Hundreds of Iranian militant students stormed the American embassy following the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. They took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days after Washington refused to hand over the shah, who was in the US.

A crowd chanted "Down with the US" and "Death to Israel" during the anniversary celebration. State television said similar celebrations were being held in other Iranian cities and towns. They also burned flags of both the US and Israel as well as an effigy of president Donald Trump.

Mr Trump refused to recertify the 2015 landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in October and the US has imposed more sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme.

The US Congress must now make a decision regarding the nuclear deal, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the country's Supreme National Security Council, addressed the crowd on Saturday, saying Iran will make any sanctions imposed by the US "ineffective", even as Washington targets Iran's economic, nuclear and defensive power.

Mr Shamkhani, alluding to Mr Trump's threats against North Korea, said even US allies know that Mr Trump "has no power to realise his bluffs, against Iran, too". He called the US the "eternal enemy" of Iran.

The former US embassy in Tehran is now a cultural centre but stands as a symbol of a US defeat for many Iranians. Many Iranians call it the "den of spies".

The US cut its diplomatic relations with Iran following the embassy takeover and has had no diplomatic relations since.