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500 protest in Tehran over anti-Islam film

Up to 500 people protested in Tehran on Thursday over an anti-Islam film made in the United States, chanting "Death to America!"

Tehran: Up to 500 people protested in Tehran on Thursday over an anti-Islam film made in the United States, chanting "Death to America!" and death to the movie's director, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The rally took place near the Swiss embassy, which handles US interests in the absence of US-Iran diplomatic ties.

Hundreds of police and security personnel prevented the crowd from approaching the diplomatic compound, which had been evacuated by Swiss diplomats as a precaution.

Several protesters carried Egyptian and Libyan flags in support of Muslims in those countries where violent protests against the film occurred on Tuesday.

Iranian news agencies said the demonstration was called by the Student Islamic Society, a hardline university group loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that has held anti-Western rallies in the past.

In the Libya protest on Tuesday at the US consulate in the city of Benghazi, a US ambassador and three other US officials were killed.

Washington is investigating to see whether the Libya assault was organised by militant groups to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

However, much attention is focused on the anti-Islam film said to have prompted the protests in Libya and Egypt.

The low-budget amateur film ridicules the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by associating him with sex and themes of paedophilia and homosexuality.

It is an offence under Islam to depict Mohammad in any way, and Danish cartoons of the prophet in 2005 sparked violent protests in several countries.

US media initially cited someone claiming to be an American-Israeli calling himself Sam Bacile as saying he made the film on a $5 million budget with the help of 100 Jews, but no record of such a person has been found.

US President Barack Obama, in a telephone call to Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi on Wednesday, said he "rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities."

Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani responded by saying: "Obama's comments that he respects the Muslim culture is a big and bold lie. The Americans and the Zionists do not tolerate other religions and cultures."

Western embassies in Iran maintain a high level of vigilance over any protests.

Canada last week closed its embassy, citing concern over the safety of its diplomats.

In November last year, the British embassy was stormed and ransacked during a state-organised demonstration, prompting London to close that mission and order Iran's diplomats out of Britain.

In 1979, in the wake of Iran's Islamic revolution, protesters overran the US embassy in Tehran, taking 52 diplomats and other Americans hostage for 444 days. That incident led to the rupture of Iran-US ties.