Foreign-backed ‘hooligans’ behind protest violence: Iran’s Khamenei condemns ‘sabotage’, endorses fuel price hike

The Iranian government’s surprise decision to raise gasoline prices, which caused protests around the country, should be implemented, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said, blaming the violence amid demonstrations on criminals.

The divisive decision, announced this week, has caused protests in several Iranian cities. Khamenei was cited by the Iranian media on Sunday as saying that, while he was no expert in petrol industry, he still believed the government’s decision should be implemented. The Iranian leader also confirmed that there have been deaths related to the protests caused by the hike, blaming them on foreign influence.

“Sabotage and arson is done by hooligans not our people. The counter-revolution and Iran’s enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so,” he said as quoted by state TV.

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The demonstrations that started on Friday have been largely peaceful, but on some occasions the public anger escalated into vandalism and clashes. Iranian authorities confirmed that one person was killed in the southeastern city of Sirjan. There were also reports of protesters vandalizing cars, setting banks on fire and otherwise causing property damage.

The surprise decision announced on Thursday night increased gasoline price from 10,000 rials per liter to 15,000, which translates into about $0.13 a liter, or about $0.50 a gallon. There is also a monthly ration of 60 liters for private cars. Car owners wishing to buy more fuel will have to pay double the price.

The measure was criticized by some Iranian clerics and secular officials. For instance, Hamidreza Hajibabayi, who seats at the Iranian parliament’s budget commission, said the hike was illegal since it would bring state budget profits over the threshold set in the yearly budget. The government says the extra money would go on cash handouts and subsidies for the less-wealthy Iranians.

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