Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Photo by AP
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Iran's president said Friday that Egypt's popular uprising shows a new Islamic Middle East is emerging, one that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims will have no signs of Israel and U.S. interference.

The Iranian leader spoke as the country marked the 32nd anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power.

Ahmadinejad's remarks came hours after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced he is transferring authority to his deputy but refused to step down, angering hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who have been demanding he relinquish his three-decade grip on power.

Tens of thousands marched down Tehran's main boulevard in state-organized anniversary festivities, chanting in support of Egyptian anti-government protesters. Some Iranians set an effigy of Mubarak on fire while others shouted: "Hosni non-Mubarak, 'Mubarak' (congratulations) on the uprising of your people."

Iran's state TV broadcast simultaneous live footage of the gathering at Tehran's Azadi, or Freedom, Square and that of anti-government demonstrations in Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square where tens of thousands had gathered by noon Friday.

Iran, which is at odds with the international community over its controversial nuclear program, has sought to portray the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as evidence of a replay of its own Islamic Revolution.

"Despite all the [West's] complicated and satanic designs ... a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and U.S. interference, a place where the arrogant powers will have no place," Ahmadinejad told the crowd.

He also urged Egyptian protesters to persevere until there is a regime change. "It's your right to be free. It's your right to exercise your will and sovereignty ... and choose the type of government and the rulers."

After his address, Ahmadinejad carried a placard reading, "Death to Israel."

The Iranian leadership's attempt to capitalize on the Egyptian uprising is underscored by its effort to deprive its own opposition of any chance to reinvigorate a movement swept from the streets in a heavy military crackdown in 2009.

Ahead of the anniversary, Iranian security forces arrested several opposition activists, including aides to Iran's opposition leaders.

Authorities also placed Mahdi Karroubi, one of Iran's opposition leaders, under house arrest, posting security officers at his door in response to his calls for an Iranian opposition rally in support of anti-government demonstrations in Egypt.

Karroubi's website, sahamnews.org, said security officials informed Karroubi
that the restrictions would remain in place until after Feb. 14.

Karroubi, and Iran's other top opposition figure, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have asked the government for permission to hold a Feb. 14 gathering in support of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

State Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi rejected the demand on Wednesday, warning of repercussions if the rally takes place. Hossein Hamedani, a senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, said any attempt by the opposition to rally supporters on Feb. 14 would be crushed.

Mousavi's aide Saleh Noghrehkar and Sadroddin Beheshti, son of another Mousavi aide, Ali Reza Beheshti, were among those arrested, according to opposition website kaleme.com. The website also said another opposition activist, Fariba Ebtehaj, a close aide to former reformist vice president, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has also been arrested.

Both Mousavi and Karroubi ran against Ahmadinejad in the June 2009 elections, which opposition says was heavily rigged. Mousavi, who campaigned on a platform calling for social and political reforms, maintains he was the rightful winner and that Ahmadinejad was declared the winner through massive vote fraud.

White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement Thursday that Karroubi's house arrest underscored the hypocrisy of Iran's leadership.

"For all of its empty talk about Egypt, the government of Iran should allow the Iranian people the same universal right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate in Tehran that the people are exercising in Cairo," he said.