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VOA Special Coverage of 30th Anniversary of U.S. Embassy Takeover in Iran

Obama anniversary statement, 'citizen journalist' material from current demonstrations also covered

Washington, D.C., November 4, 2009 – As fresh demonstrations erupted across Iran, Voice of America’s (VOA) Persian News Network (PNN) marked the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran with exclusive interviews with former American hostages.

Barry Rosen, the former press attaché, said in an interview with PNN that the U.S. Marines' decision not to open fire on the Iranian militants who stormed the embassy on Nov. 4, 1979 prevented a massacre. One military leader told him after the takeover that the Iranians had been looking for an excuse to kill all the Americans, said Rosen, one of 52 American diplomats held captive for more than a year.

Prior to the embassy takeover, Rosen said then-President Jimmy Carter asked at a White House meeting what the U.S. response should be if the embassy was seized. "No one answered him and there should have been an answer," Rosen said. PNN also interviewed Bruce Laingen, the charge d'affaires, and two other former hostages.

The Nov. 4th anniversary coincided with clashes across Iran between police and opposition demonstrators who tried to interfere with an Iranian government-sanctioned protest. PNN, using its "citizen journalist" sources, aired video images of the events and interviewed participants in the demonstrations.

PNN also reported President Obama's anniversary statement, which underscored U.S. efforts to improve relations with Iran. "Iran must choose. We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for," Obama said.

On Saturday, PNN will broadcast a special half-hour documentary on the embassy takeover. It will also show a program featuring excerpts from interviews with prominent analysts and scholars conducted this week. Special coverage of the embassy seizure anniversary is available at

"Historically, this is a perfect time to look back, not just to focus on the past but to examine how past events are shaping the U.S.-Iranian relationship today," said PNN Acting Director Alex Belida.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail