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Over 500 protesters converge on UK embassy in Iran

By Staff
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TEHRAN, Feb 26 (Reuters) More than 500 protesters angered by the destruction of a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Iraq gathered outside the British Embassy in Tehran today, burning flags and calling for the mission to be closed.

Iran accused Western forces in Iraq of orchestrating Wednesday's bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra, one of the most venerated buildings in Shi'ite Islam, in order to spark civil war between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

Western nations condemned the attack and Washington suggested the al Qaeda network could have been trying to stir up sectarian bloodshed through the bombing.

The crowd in Tehran chanted that the British Embassy should be shut down and burned Danish and US flags.

''We are all here to defend Islam to the last drop of our blood,'' said protester Hassan Moradkhani, dressed in a Palestinian headscarf.

The United States has no embassy in Iran so protesters enraged by events in Iraq usually focus their wrath on close US ally Britain.

In recent weeks crowds of hardline students have attacked European embassies in Tehran in response to newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

The cartoons, which first appeared in Denmark, caused offence because many Muslims believe representation of the Prophet is blasphemous. Many also found the tone offensive, appearing to show Mohammad as a terrorist.

''Publishing cartoons and bombing shrines is all part of a US and Zionist conspiracy to divide Muslims but the Islamic community is aware of what they are up to,'' said Maryam Hajizadeh, 26.

Reuters OM BD1514

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