TEHRAN, Iran – Thousands of Iranian hard-liners rallied in several cities Friday against a government decision allowing inspection of its nuclear facilities and suspending uranium enrichment.
The protests, larger than hard-line demonstrations in the capital last Friday, came on the day the United Nations set as a deadline for Iran to prove its nuclear activities are not aimed at building atomic weapons, as the United States contends.
"Additional protocol, never, never!" the protesters shouted as they marched through downtown Tehran. Others chanted: "Death to compromisers!" Some wore white shrouds to symbolize their readiness to die for their cause.
Iran's hard-line conservatives, who back the country's supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search), oppose international demands that Iran allow unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Reformist elements of the government, however, pledged last week to suspend uranium enrichment and allow the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (search) unfettered access to nuclear sites. It was not clear when Iran would take those promised steps.
Iran has also given the Vienna-based agency a dossier on its nuclear programs. An IAEA spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, told The Associated Press in New York on Friday that the documents appeared to be "comprehensive," but that experts must still compare them with evidence they are collecting.
At a Tehran mosque, hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers that Iran would not respect commitments it has made unless Britain, France and Germany keep promises to offer greater cooperation on nuclear energy and nonmilitary technology.
If the IAEA decides Iran has not proven its peaceful nuclear intentions, it could refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions. For now, international pressure on Iran has eased, with focus shifting from Friday's deadline to a Nov. 20 IAEA board of governors meeting.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative to the IAEA, said Friday that Iran's working with the U.N. agency was not due to the deadline.
"Iran has cooperated ... only on the basis of the growing trend of bilateral cooperation," state-run Tehran radio quoted Salehi as saying.
Many within Iran's conservative camp have joined reformists in agreeing to allow spot checks of nuclear facilities, and officials say the decision had approval by supreme leader Khamenei.