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Iran Marks Anniversary Of U.S. Embassy Seizure

Iranian students climb over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iranians are marking the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy, a day before Americans elect a new president, with some demonstrators indifferent to the U.S. vote and a few wondering if it could help rebuild ties.

Iran has been a focus of the foreign policy debate in the U.S. campaign before the November 4 vote. Both candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, say they will toughen sanctions. Obama says he is prepared to engage in direct talks.

Kayhan International, a hard-line English-language daily, said in a column that it did not matter who won the U.S. race.

"Hopefully either of the two would be presiding over the end of the U.S. domineering system, whose den of espionage was taken over this day in 1979 by Tehran University students, in a move that nipped in the bud the plots of the White House against the newfound Islamic Republic," it wrote on its front page.

The United States cut ties with Tehran in 1980. Washington now says it is considering opening a U.S. interests section in Tehran, which would mean sending diplomats. It says this would show the United States was against Iran's government not people.

'Change In Their Outlook'

But amid "Death to America" chants outside the former U.S. mission, some wondered if the November 4 vote could bring change.

"There is a good possibility there would be a change in their outlook towards Iran with the coming of the new president. I am very optimistic, especially if Obama is elected," Ahmad Abdullahi, a 34-year-old school teacher, told Reuters.

He was among thousands gathered around the old embassy walls that radical students scaled on Nov. 4, 1979, and then held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The Iranian date of the takeover was the 13th day of Aban, which this year falls on November 3.

"In my opinion, McCain will be president. Whoever becomes the president -- other than George Bush -- will be more logical," said Ramin Kermani, a 22-year-old chemistry student.

Bush labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" in 2002, a move that angered the Islamic Republic particularly after it helped in the 2001 U.S.-led war to topple Afghanistan's Taliban.

Iranian analysts say officials in Tehran may privately prefer Obama but they are not counting on a major U.S. policy shift. Some demonstrators on November 3 echoed that view.

"I don't think their imperialist instinct would allow any change in their behavior and demeanor toward Iran or any other country," said 71-year-old pensioner Aboutaleb Mirzaie.

Debate in Iran about ties has grown as politicians start maneuvering before the Islamic Republic's own presidential race in June. Critics say President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has isolated Iran with his fiery speeches against Washington and the West.

But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, put a damper on such discussion last week by saying Iran's hatred of America ran deep and differences were more than a few policies.

Yet Iranians insist their differences are with the White House not Americans -- a view shared by the Kayhan editorial.

When a photographer tried to take a picture of one Iranian demonstrator, his subject shouted with a big smile: "Don't take my picture, they won't give me a visa."