Iran condemns US support for ‘rioters’ as violent petrol protests grip country
Iran condemned US support for “rioters” after days of violent protests in the Islamic republic against a petrol price increase.
The foreign ministry said it was reacting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “expression of support ... for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks”.
Protests erupted in Iran on Friday, hours after it was announced the price of petrol would rise to 15,000 rials a litre (Dh1.30) for the first 60 litres and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.
In a tweet on Saturday, Mr Pompeo said in response to the demonstrations that “the United States is with you”.
On Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi criticised Mr Pompeo’s comments.
“The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy,” Mr Mousavi said. “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.”
The statement blasted Washington for its decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran after the US withdrawal in May last year from the 2015 nuclear deal.
“It’s curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism,” Mr Mousavi said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the country could not allow insecurity after two days of unrest in which two people and led to the authorities arresting dozens and restricting internet access.
Mr Rouhani defended the petrol price increase that triggered the protests – a project that the government says will finance social welfare spending amid a sharp economic downturn.
The petrol plan is expected to generate 300 trillion rials a year, from which the government says about 60 million needy people would receive payments.
“For this ... we should either increase taxes on the people, export more oil or reduce subsidies and return the revenues to the people in need,” Mr Rouhani said.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “some lost their lives” in the violence and blamed what he called hooligans. “All the centres of the world’s wickedness against us cheered” the street protests, he said.
The latest death was a policeman who was shot in a clash with rioters in the western city of Kermanshah.
Several people were also wounded and dozens arrested in the demonstrations during which motorists blocked roads and others set fire to public property.
A petrol station in Eslamshahr, near the capital Tehran, that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in fuel prices