Saturday, July 01, 2006

Iranian exiles hold anti-nuclear rally in France

Thousands rallied in support of an Iranian exile group near Paris on Saturday, calling on Western powers to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb and urging democratic change in Tehran.

Maryam Rajavi, leader of the France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, said the NCRI hoped to oust Iran's clerical rulers and set up a democratic interim government.

"The solution to the nuclear crisis and to avert a war is democratic change in Iran," she told a crowd in a hangar used as an exhibition hall north of Paris. Organisers said 30,000 people demonstrated. Police did not have immediate numbers. READ MORE

Western powers suspect Tehran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to a level suitable for use in generating electricity.

The NCRI came to international attention after revealing in 2002 that Tehran was running secret uranium enrichment programmes. It is the political wing of the People's Mujahideen, an armed guerrilla movement listed as a terrorist group by the United States.

French authorities imprisoned several members of the NCRI -- including Rajavi -- briefly in 2003 on a charge of "association with criminals in connection with a terrorist enterprise".

They had been under judicial controls since then, but a French court eased some restrictions on members last month.

The group is still banned from fundraising.
The US Government has classified the NCRI a terrorist organization.