Iran has slammed a US show of support for “rioters,” after violent protests sparked by a decision to impose gasoline price hikes and rationing in the sanctions-hit country.
Major roads have been blocked, banks torched and public buildings attacked in the nationwide unrest that has left at least two dead — a civilian and a policeman.
Footage of the violence showing masked young men on debris-strewn streets setting buildings ablaze has been aired on state television, which rarely shows any signs of dissent in the country.
Photo: AP / Abdolvahed Mirzazadeh / ISNA
Demonstrations broke out on Friday after it was announced that the price of gasoline would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 liters and 200 percent for any extra fuel after that each month.
The authorities in the Islamic republic say they have arrested more than 200 people and restricted Internet access.
The situation on the streets was unclear yesterday morning, largely due to the Internet outage that has stemmed the flow of videos shared on social media of protests or associated acts of violence.
Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.
The US on Sunday condemned Iran for using “lethal force” against demonstrators.
“The United States supports the Iranian people in their peaceful protests against the regime that is supposed to lead them,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators.”
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he tweeted on Saturday “the United States is with you” in response to the demonstrations.
In a statement issued late on Sunday, the ministry said it was reacting to Pompeo’s “expression of support ... for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks.”
“The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying.
“The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of [Pompeo] have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people,” it said.
The statement blasted Washington’s “ill-intent” over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.
“It’s curious that the sympathizing is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism,” Mousavi said.
Iran announced the surprise decision to impose gasoline price hikes and rationing at midnight Thursday-Friday, saying the move was aimed at helping the needy with cash handouts.
The plan agreed by the Iranian High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief comes ahead of parliamentary elections in February.
It won support on Sunday from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it,” he said in a speech aired on state television.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday also defended the controversial price hike, the proceeds or which are to be used to make welfare payments to 60 million Iranians.
In remarks after a Cabinet meeting, Rouhani also announced the first payments would be made to 20 million people last night.
He also warned that Iran could not allow “insecurity.”
“Protesting is the people’s right, but protesting is different from rioting. We should not allow insecurity in the society,” Rouhani said.
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