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Iran issues warning to fuel price hike protesters

Rahmani-Fazli criticised a “limited number” of people whom he accused of abusing the public mood to create “intimidation and terror”.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Iranian government warned on Saturday that the security officials will step up action against protesters who took to the streets across the country against the government’s decision to ration gasoline and increase petrol prices.

In an interview, speaking to the state television, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, said that the law enforcement and security officials will have “no choice” but to step in and restore calm if “illegal” actions continue, the BBC reported.

Rahmani-Fazli criticised a “limited number” of people whom he accused of abusing the public mood to create “intimidation and terror”.

Earlier on Friday, the protests broke out after the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) said that the price of a litre of regular gasoline had gone up to 15,000 rials (12.7 US cents) from 10,000 rials and the monthly ration for each private automobile was set at 60 litres per month, the Tehran-based Press TV said in a report.

Additional purchases would cost 30,000 rials per litre.

Addressing the nation on Friday, President Hassan Rouhani said the government had no intention to receive any portion of the hike despite the economic woes in the country.

On Friday, at least one person was killed during protests in the central city of Sirjan, according to officials.

State news agency IRNA said there were clashes with police when protesters attacked a fuel storage warehouse and tried to set fire to it, the BBC reported.

Fresh protests were held on Saturday in the cities of Doroud, Garmsar, Gorgan, Ilam, Karaj, Khoramabad, Mehdishahr, Qazvin, Qom, Sanandaj, Shahroud and Shiraz, Irna reported.

On Sunday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei threw in his weight behind the decision, saying: “The heads of power branches have sat down and taken a decision supported by experts. The decision must be implemented,” Press TV reported.

The demonstrations on Friday night were “severe” in Iran‘s central city of Sirjan as “people attacked a fuel storage warehouse in the city and tried to set fire to it”, state news agency IRNA reported, adding that police intervened to stop them.

After months of speculation, authorities announced in the early hours of Friday that petrol will now be rationed across the country using smart fuel cards.

The moves prompted fears of households facing further economic pressure in a country whose economy is forecast to shrink by 9.5 percent this year

Angry protesters in Ahvaz, the capital city of Khuzestan, as well as in Behbahan, Mahshahr, and Omidiyeh chanted slogans against President Hassan Rouhani and his administration.

Earlier this year, at least 11 people were killed in Iran during five days of anti-government street protests that President Hassan Rouhani blamed on interference by foreign powers.

(With inputs from IANS)