Published: Mon, November 18, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Iran warns security forces may act against gas price protests

Iran warns security forces may act against gas price protests

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday voiced support for a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing that sparked protests across the Islamic republic.

Iranian protesters clash in the streets.

"Protesting is the people's right, but protesting is different from rioting".

In a speech aired on state television, Khamenei said "some lost their lives and some centers were damaged".

Semi-official news agency ISNA said the protests had "mostly subsided" by Sunday evening, a report that could not be verified because of the online outage and limited news from agencies.

Tehran says the gasoline price increase is expected to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies for 18 million families, or about 60 million Iranians, on lower incomes.

Sirjan's acting Governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi also told journalists that some violent elements within a largely "calm gathering" damaged public property, including fuel stations, sought access to a local oil company's major fuel depots and even set them on fire.

Netblocks, a website monitoring internet services worldwide, said on Saturday that the Islamic Republic was having an internet shutdown. "We can not let insecurity in the country through riots", Iran's pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani said, TV reported.

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"I am not an expert in this field, but I had asserted before that I would back whatever decision the heads of the three branches [legislative, judiciary, administrative] make", Khamenei said in statements cited by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

"Some people would definitely get upset over this decision. but damaging and setting fire (to property) is not something (normal) people would do".

"We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators", the White House said.

"Confirmed: Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7 per cent of ordinary levels after twelve hours of progressive network disconnections", it said on Twitter.

The protests have put renewed pressure on Iran's government as it struggles to overcome the USA sanctions strangling the country's economy after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.

Forty "disruptors" were arrested in the central city of Yazd after clashing with police, the province's public prosecutor told ISNA on Sunday.

Iran's Intelligence Ministry said protest leaders had been identified.

Inflation is high as much as 40 per cent and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the country's growth will shrink 9 per cent in 2020 and stagnate in 2020. But videos on social media showed protests continued in Tehran and some other cities.

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