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More pro-regime rallies as Iran declares sedition over

  • Published at 11:04 pm January 4th, 2018
More pro-regime rallies as Iran declares sedition over
Iran saw another day of large pro-regime rallies on Thursday after authorities declared the end of deadly unrest and turned attention to addressing the economic concerns that fuelled protests. A week after demonstrations broke out, there was a very heavy police presence on the streets of Tehran, AFP journalists said, and no reports of fresh protests overnight. Limited activity on social media suggested unrest in provincial towns was also down. The US said it may look to impose fresh sanctions on Tehran over its "crackdown," but Russia warned Washington against interfering in Iran's internal affairs. Iranian state TV showed huge crowds marching in support of the government across 10 cities early Thursday, including Isfahan, Ardebil and Mashhad, where the protests first erupted a week ago. "We are together behind the leader," chanted the crowds, in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In a bid to address grievances that drove the initial unrest, Iranian authorities were weighing options including blocking unpopular measures in President Hassan Rouhani's recent budget. "The people's main demand now is for the government and officials to deal with the economic problems," Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Khamenei, told the semi-official ISNA news agency. The head of the army, General Abdolrahim Mousavin, thanked security forces for "putting out the fire of sedition." A total of 21 people died and hundreds were arrested in five days of unrest that began on December 28 as protests over economic woes and quickly turned against the regime as a whole, with attacks on government buildings and police stations.

'Grotesque intervention'

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on Thursday said 42,000 people had taken part in the unrest nationwide. It was a higher figure than the 15,000 given by the head of the Revolutionary Guards a day earlier, but still far below the hundreds of thousands that took to the streets during the last major protest movement in 2009. The unrest caused international concern, with the United States in particular accusing authorities of a crackdown on dissent. A White House official, who asked for anonymity, on Wednesday said Washington would look for "actionable information" to try to impose fresh sanctions on those responsible. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly tweeted his backing for Iranian protesters saying he has "such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted back on Thursday: "Trump has an odd way of showing 'such respect'." "From labelling them a 'terrorist nation' and banning them from visiting the US, to petty insults on the name of the Persian Gulf," he wrote, referring to Trump's use of the term "Arabian Gulf." Russia jumped to Iran's defence, with deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov telling state agency TASS: "Despite the many attempts to distort what is really going on (in Iran), I am sure that our neighbour, our friend, will overcome its current difficulties." The question now is whether Trump will continue to waive nuclear-related sanctions that were suspended under the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.