0140 GMT December 12, 2019
Zarif: US expression of support for Iranians ‘disgraceful’ lie
Protests in Iran triggered by gas price hikes last week, have subsided, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said Tuesday.
"Calm has been restored in the country," Iran's Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaili told a news conference.
Esmaili also warned that authorities would deal firmly with those who endanger public security and carry out arson attacks.
In televised remarks, he called on citizens to inform on "seditionists" who have committed acts of violence.
Several people, including members of security forces and police, have been killed in the protests that began on Friday following fuel price rises of at least 50 percent, while some 1,000 "rioters" were arrested, authorities said.
In the latest bloodshed, assailants wielding knives and machetes ambushed and killed three security personnel west of Tehran, ISNA and Fars news agencies reported late Monday.
One of the fatalities was identified as Morteza Ebrahimi, a commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and father of a newborn child, according to Fars.
The other two were Majid Sheikhi, 22, and Mostafa Rezaie, 33. Both served in the Basij volunteer force.
Iran’s TV said funerals will be held for security forces killed in the protests, adding that "thousands of Iranians have staged rallies in several cities to condemn the unrest".
The deaths take to at least five the number of people confirmed killed in the nationwide demonstrations which include a civilian and policeman.
When the demonstrations broke out on Friday, drivers stopped their vehicles on major thoroughfares in Tehran to block traffic.
They soon turned violent and spread to more than 20 cities and towns across Iran, with banks, gas stations and other public property set alight and shops looted.
Footage of masked young men clashing with security forces has been broadcast on national television.
In a new video aired Monday night, a man can be seen firing what appears to be an assault rifle as others hurl stones apparently at security forces in the western city of Andimeshk.
It is the worst violence since at least 25 lives were lost in protests over economic hardship that started in Iran's second city Mashhad in December 2017 before spreading to other urban centers.
On Monday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned of "decisive" action if violent protests continue.
“If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the IRGC said in a statement carried by national TV.
A curb on Internet access imposed at the weekend was still in place.
"National connectivity remains at just five percent of normal levels," tweeted Netblocks, a website that monitors global net shutdowns.
Iran announced the 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 a council made up of the president, Parliament speaker and Judiciary chief comes at a sensitive time ahead of February parliamentary elections.
The government said the price rises were intended to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes.
State news agency IRNA said handouts to the poor had started on Tuesday.
The hikes received public support of Iran's Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
President Hassan Rouhani has defended the price hikes saying the proceeds will be used to make welfare payments to 60 million Iranians.
Washington’s ‘disgraceful lie’
The United States has condemned Iran for using "lethal force" against protesters.
Iran hit back at its arch-enemy on Monday, slamming US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he tweeted "the United States is with you" in response to the demonstrations.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned as a “disgraceful lie” the Pompeo’s expression of support for what he called “the Iranian people”, saying Washington must, before anything, be responsible for waging economic terrorism and perpetrating crimes against humanity in dealing with Iranians.
“A regime that hinders the delivery of food and medicine to ordinary [Iranian] people — including the elderly and the patients — through economic terrorism [tactics] can never claim support for the Iranian people in such a disgraceful way,” Zarif said on Monday evening.
Zarif further said, “Mr. Pompeo must first be responsible for [Washington’s] declared acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity against the Iranian people.”
The top Iranian diplomat likewise warned certain European states against making meddlesome comments about the recent riots in Iran.
“The countries that have failed to show their ability and will [to stand] against America’s economic terrorism” against Iran are now attempting to “cover up their failure by supporting the riots both politically and on the field to disrupt public order,” said Zarif, warning that those governments “will be responsible for all the consequences of their dangerous provocations.”
He was apparently referring to recent remarks by French and German officials, who have called on Tehran to respect what they called the Iranians’ “legitimate” right to protest.
The two European countries are signatories to a 2015 multinational nuclear deal, whose fate remains in doubt after the US withdrawal last year.
Iran’s minister of telecommunications also slammed remarks by a senior US diplomat about Internet blackout in Iran, saying it is pure hypocrisy that Americans are promising to provide Iranians with free and unrestricted Internet.
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said on Monday Americans would better think about the unrestricted flow of vital medicines to the Iranian patients suffering from cancer rather that caring about Internet and its sustainability in Iran.
US ambassador to Germany Richard Allen Grenell said in a tweet on Sunday that his government had the technical ability to ensure that Internet in Iran would be free of any blocking attempt, a claim rejected by Azari as untrue, at least for the time being.
“Internet will return to the life of the Iranian people soon and the government would continue to develop it,” said Azari, vowing that the Internet in Iran will continue to be a platform for exposing the "oppressive" policies of the US government.
AFP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.