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Iranians emboldened by Bush speech

Millions of Iranians, glued to their TV sets to watch President Bush’s inaugural address, warmly embraced his declaration to help spread liberty to nations ruled by tyranny, according to a leading pro-democracy movement.

Underground groups operating in the Middle East nation indicate that in the days ahead, Iranians will increase their civil disobedience against the radical Islamic regime through strikes and demonstrations, said the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran.

The hope raised in the speech has been the main topic of conversation in family and social gatherings and on the street in Iran, the group said in a statement published by Front Page Magazine.

In his speech Thursday, the president pledged that “all who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your opression.”

“When you stand for liberty,” Bush said, “we will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing prison or exile can know America sees you for who you are, future leaders of your country.”

The president said “as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it” and “one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”

After the speech, many Iranians were seen flashing the “V” sign or raising their fists, the student group said.

The movement says its membership is made up of students inside and outside of Iran along with Iranian professionals who “share the students’ vision of a free, independent, democratic, secular and industrialized Iran.”

Although Iranians often go out Thursday night, the start of the weekend, many stayed home to watch or hear the speech and commentary on Los Angeles-based Iranian satellite TV and radio networks.

Iranian opposition groups looking to the world’s superpower for moral support and financial aid “are now becoming sure that Mr. Bush’s agenda is indeed to help them to gain freedom, secularity and democracy,” the students’ statement said.

“They do believe correctly that such way will avoid an unnecessary U.S. invasion or military strike against Iranian facilities which will help the Mullahcracy to consolidate its illegitimate and unpopular power, while causing heavy financial damages and human causalities.”

The student group said that what has been missing is “firm and noticeable world pressure on the Islamic regime and a trustable oppposition council with a correct agenda.”

Bush said last week his administration will not exclude the possibility of using military force against Iran over its nuclear program.

Tehran has denied allegations of a secret weapons program, insisting its nuclear activities are only for energy.

On Sunday, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi called U.S. threats a bluff and said a military strike would be a “strategic blunder.”

“The Americans are stupid, but not so much to make the same mistake which they made in Tabas,” said Yunesi, referring to a failed operation in 1980 ordered by President Carter to rescue hostages in Tehran.

Related story:

Group fights for a free Iran

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