Hillary Clinton - AFP - Feb 14, 2011
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in Washington DC, February 14, 2011. Photo by AFP
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has expressed support for the tens of thousands of protesters in Iran's capital, saying they deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and are part of their own birthright.

"Let me, clearly and directly, support the aspirations of the people who are in the streets in Iran today," Clinton told reporters after meeting with the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

"What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people, and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime -- a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt," Clinton said.

"We wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunities that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize."

Clinton spoke after an Iranian opposition website said dozens of people were arrested on Monday while taking part in a banned rally in Tehran to support popular uprisings which toppled the governments in Egypt and Tunisia in recent weeks.

The rallies amounted to a test of strength for the reformist opposition, which had not taken to the streets since December 2009 when eight people were killed.

Clinton said the United States had the same message for Iran's government and its people that it did for their counterparts in Egypt, where popular protests last week forced longtime President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

"We think that there needs to be a commitment to open up the political system in Iran, to hear the voices of the opposition and civil society," Clinton said, underscoring U.S. calls for non-violence, human rights and democratic political change.

The United States voiced support for Iran's opposition protests in 2009 following a disputed election, and has since maintained pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, which Washington fears is aimed at producing an atomic weapon.

Western officials say they believe economic sanctions are starting to squeeze the Iranian government, and are now debating next steps following inconclusive talks in Istanbul last month with Iranian officials.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia as an "Islamic awakening," while Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy needs.