Demonstrators against “US and British crimes in Iraq” hurled petrol bombs at the wall surrounding the British embassy in Tehran during a mass protest in the Iranian capital. A home-made grenade landed in the embassy garden and exploded Wednesday, while Molotov cocktails burst against cement blocks placed in front of the building, before security forces charged the protestors with clubs.
In London, the Foreign Office said windows had been broken and the visa section of the embassy had been closed.
A spokesman said that an estimated 500 demonstrators had massed outside the building, and that two Molotov cocktails had been thrown, neither of which ignited a fire.
“No one has been hurt, and basically there has been no damage apart from a couple of windows broken” during the demonstration, the second such one in less than a week, the spokesman said.
“We have closed the visa section, which is the bit of the embassy that has been open to the public,” he said, adding that diplomats were still “continuing their business inside”.
Several hundred young Islamists had gathered outside the embassy as some 100,000 people rallied in the vast Enghelab (Revolution) square at the call of the authorities to demonstrate against the profanation of Shiite holy sites in Iraq blamed on US-led coalition forces.
They also burned US and British flags and hurled them at the embassy, but were prevented by police from crossing the road to get nearer to the mission.
Some demonstrators and a number of photographers were arrested.
On Sunday, several hundred Islamic students threw rocks at the embassy and tried to storm the building in a protest over the US-led occupation of Iraq, but were turned back by riot police.
The United States has no embassy in Tehran, having broken off diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic in 1980, and demonstrators tend to target Washington’s closest ally.
Earlier tens of thousands marched through Tehran towards the central square, some three kilometres (two miles) from the embassy, burning US, British and Israeli flags and screamed “Death to America, Death to Israel”.
The clerical Iranian regime had called for the demonstrations in Tehran and the holy cities of Qom, south of the capital, and Mashhad in the northeast.
For several days the authorities have denounced actions by US forces against the militia of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in particular in the cities of Najaf and Karbala, where the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam are located.
But they have refrained from voicing support for Sadr in his rebellion against the US-led coalition occupying Iraq.
Officially Tehran supports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most respected of Shiite religious leaders in Iran, who has called on both sides to leave the holy cities.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Sunday that “Muslims cannot tolerate the insolent attacks by US soldiers against the holy places, and these crimes can only be condemned in the eyes of the Islamic world, the Shiites and the Iranian people.”
He also said the prisoner abuse scandal at the US-run Abu Ghraib jail outside Baghdad represented “a shameful stain which cannot be easily wiped clean” by the Americans.
Iran’s influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani added that the “worst mistake of the United States was to have caused trouble in the Shiite regions of Iraq.”
“The world’s 200 million Shiite Muslims will never forget the crimes of the Americans,” he warned.
Iran’s population is 90 percent Shiite.