Iranian protesters set a US flag on fire during a rally outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2019, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis. Picture: ATTA KENARE / AFP
Iranian protesters set a US flag on fire during a rally outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2019, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis. Picture: ATTA KENARE / AFP

Dubai — Thousands of Iranians chanted “death to America” near the old US embassy on Monday, the 40th anniversary on the seizure of the mission, with the country's army chief comparing the US with a poisonous scorpion intent on harming Iran.

State television showed crowds packing the streets around the former mission, dubbed the "den of spies” after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Marches and rallies were being held in about 1,000 communities across the country, state media said.

Hardline Islamist students stormed the embassy soon after the fall of the US-backed shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days. The two countries have been enemies ever since.

"Our fight with the US is over our independence, over not submitting to bullying, over values, beliefs and our religion,” army chief Maj-Gen Abdolrahim Mousavi said in a speech at the rally outside the former embassy.

"[Americans] will continue their hostilities, like the proverbial poisonous scorpion whose nature it is to sting and cannot be stopped unless it is crushed,” Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV.

On Sunday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed a ban on talks with the US, describing the two countries as implacable foes.

"Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100% wrong,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran's parliament gave initial approval to a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about "America's crimes”. Legislators also chanted "death to America”.

Relations between the two countries have reached a crisis over the past year since US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which it accepted curbs to its nuclear programme in return for lifting sanctions.

The US has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force it to negotiate to reach a wider deal.

Khamenei has banned Iranian officials from holding talks unless the US returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.

Reuters