Sunday 8 December 2019

Iran blames foreign foes over protests

Iran has blamed
Iran has blamed "thugs" linked to exiles and foreign foes - the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia - for stirring up unrest. Photo: Ronald Zak/AP

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri yesterday warned regional countries of unspecified dire consequences if it is proven that they meddled to stoke unrest in Iran, the country's semi-official news agency Fars reported.

"Some countries in the region should know that they will not have an easy life in the region if clues are found that show they intervened to create unrest in Iran," said Jahangiri.

Iran has blamed "thugs" linked to exiles and foreign foes - the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia - for stirring up unrest following hikes in petrol prices which led to the detention of about 1,000 demonstrators and some of the worst violence in a decade.

Iranian troops and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards helped police quell violent unrest, Iranian officials said yesterday, accusing "US agents" of being among the armed protesters.

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The unrest appears to be the most violent since Iran stamped out the 2009 "Green Revolution", with dozens of protesters killed over several months.

Amnesty International updated its estimated death toll in the unrest to 115 from 106. "We believe that the real figure may be much higher. We are continuing to investigate," Katy Pownall, Amnesty's deputy head of news, said.

The Revolutionary Guards' commander in Kermanshah, said "the rioters belonged to anti-revolutionary groups, exiled opposition and America's intelligence services."

Reyhani did not name the groups. Armed Iranian Kurdish militants have long operated near the province's border with Iraq. The Guards said calm returned to Iran last Thursday.

Other Revolutionary Guard spokesmen said the protests had been initiated by royalists seeking the return of the Pahlavi dynasty toppled by the 1979 revolution, and the Albania-based Mujahideen Khalq armed opposition group (the Marxist group which did most of the actual fighting in the 1979 Iranian revolution).

Protests began after Iran announced fuel price hikes of at least 50pc and imposed rationing.

The unrest spread to at least 100 towns and cities as demonstrators demanded senior officials step down.

Iran condemned a US decision to impose sanctions on the Iranian information minister last Friday for his role in a nationwide internet shutdown meant to help stifle protests. Last Thursday, Iran's National Security Council said that it had ordered the shutdown and approved reactivating fixed-line internet in some areas after a five-day outage. The restoration of the internet, slow on the first two days, sped up yesterday, with connectivity up to 64pc of normal levels.

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