Tehran Crowds, Carrying Mecca Dead, Chant Anti-U.S. Slogans

From Times Wire Services

Crowds carrying the bodies of 37 Muslim pilgrims killed in Mecca gathered outside the former U.S Embassy here Monday, chanting slogans against the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

An estimated 2,000 people brandished banners and black flags as they marched with the bodies from the headquarters of the Martyrs' Foundation, an organization that helps the families of those killed in the Iran-Iraq War, to the former embassy a mile away.

Officials told foreign reporters observing the march that the crowd included Health Minister Alireza Marandi, Industry Minister Gholamreza Shafie and Heavy Industry Minister Behzad Nabavi.

The bodies, some of the more than 300 Iranian pilgrims Tehran says died in the Mecca violence July 31, were flown in from Saudi Arabia early Monday.

Flag-Draped Coffins

Officials said the coffins, draped with the red, white and green Iranian flag, will be taken by ambulance to a cemetery for burial.

Demonstrators chanted "O Mohammed, they have killed your pilgrims!" and "Chop off (Saudi Arabian King) Fahd's hands!" before setting out on the hourlong procession.

An official of the Martyrs' Foundation said most of the crowd were members of Hezbollah (Party of God)--fundamentalist Muslims who closely follow Iran's spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"This is the third such procession of Iranian pilgrims who died in Mecca, but this is the biggest and most elaborate," he said.

Earlier, Iranian officials opened three of the coffins to show foreign journalists the wounds on the bodies that they said were caused by bullets.

Saudi Arabia has said Saudi security forces never fired any shots during the violence, which it said resulted in the deaths of 402 people, including 275 Iranian pilgrims.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia accused Iranian leaders of masterminding the violence in Mecca.

A statement read on Saudi television said a Cabinet meeting chaired by King Fahd reviewed security reports of "the sabotage acts planned by the heads of power in Tehran and carried out by Iranian Revolutionary Guards."

In Washington, about 250 Muslims, waving their fists and chanting "God is great!" demonstrated outside the State Department on Monday to protest what they called the U.S.-supported Saudi massacre of pilgrims in Mecca.

"What happened at Mecca doesn't just concern Iranians. It concerns all Muslims because Mecca is our holiest city," said a spokesman for the demonstrators, who would identify himself only as Abdul.

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the demonstrators had every right to protest because "it's a free country" but declined to comment on their charges.

Embassy Siege Lifted

Meanwhile, a Saudi newspaper said Monday that Iran has lifted a two-week siege of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, imposed after the Mecca riots.

A dozen Saudi diplomats and two dozen dependents had been holed up in two apartments in Tehran since the embassy was attacked after the Mecca riots.

Iranian authorities have now reportedly agreed to allow the diplomats' families to be flown home.

And Saudi Arabia expelled the supervisor of the Iranian pilgrims in Mecca, according to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency, monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus.

The agency said the supervisor, Rezai Karubi, and six other Iranian officials were arrested Sunday night, put on a plane and deported to Tehran.

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