Iranian students staged a rare demonstration against President Mahmamoud Ahmadinejad on Monday, lighting a firecracker and burning his photograph in the audience as he delivered a speech at their university, the state news agency said.

Ahmadinejad responded calmly when the students at Amir Kabir Technical University started chanting, "Death to the dictator," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"We have resisted dictatorship for many years -- from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution," Ahmadinejad said, according to the agency. "Nobody can bring back a dictatorship even in the name of freedom."

The disturbances began when a group of students started chanting during the speech in a hall at the university. Then they held up a picture of the president, upside down, and set it alight, the agency reported. Finally, the students set off a firecracker.

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Ahmadinejad supporters in the audience began to chant in response, silencing the protesters. Ahmadinejad then continued with his speech. There was no report of the authorities arresting any of the protesters.

Anti-government protests have been extremely rare since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 elections -- even in universities, which were once a stronghold of the pro-reform movement. Reformists were largely shut down in the year before Ahmadinejad's election.

The president has not always tolerated criticism. A few months ago his government banned a newspaper that had satirized him.

Ahmadinejad's son used to study at Amir Kabir university.