TEHRAN, Iran -- The United States is an "imperialist king" destined to fall, just as the U.S.-supported king of Iran fell in the 1979 Islamic revolution, Cuban President Fidel Castro told Iranians on Wednesday.
"You destroyed the strongest gendarme of the region not with guns, but with your thoughts -- and the people of the region should thank you for that," Castro said in a speech at Tehran university shortly after receiving an honorary doctorate for his struggle against the United States from the nearby Teachers' Training University.
"Today, there is a king in the world a thousand times stronger than the shah you overthrew, and that is the imperialist king living next to my homeland," Castro said in an obvious reference to the United States.
"However, this imperialist king will finally fall, just as your king was overthrown," he said to applause, a standing ovation and shouts of "Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!" from an audience of about 700 students, teachers and university officials.
Castro received the honorary degree for his "continued political, cultural and scientific efforts in the path of victory of the Cuban revolution (and) establishment of a new popular government in Cuba" as well as his struggles against the United States.
Iran and Cuba view themselves as victims of U.S. hegemony and long for a lifting of unilateral U.S. sanctions to attract greater foreign investment.
Castro, for a second day, gave up his trademark battle fatigues in favor of a suit and tie, perhaps unaware that in Iran ties remain a symbol of Western decadence.
For Iran, playing host to Castro appears to be another sign of confidence that it is winning the battle against U.S. sanctions, in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Washington severed ties and imposed sanctions after Muslim militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Earlier Wednesday, Iran's parliament speaker, Mahdi Karrubi, did not hold back the flowery welcomes that are part of Iranian etiquette when he greeted the Cuban leader on his first visit to Iran.
"In our Iranian and Islamic culture, guests are dear, and you are a very dear guest, bringing abundance with you," Karrubi told the 74-year-old Cuban revolutionary. "Today's sunshiny day is proof of that."
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