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Saturday December 15th, 2018 6:07PM

The Latest: Iran FM says people have right to protest

By The Associated Press
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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on the protests in Iran (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

Iran's foreign minister says Iranians have the right "to vote and to protest," unlike U.S. allies in the region, an apparent swipe at Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Tuesday that "Iran's security and stability depend on its own people, who — unlike the peoples of Trumps regional 'bffs'_have the right to vote and to protest."

"Bff" is internet slang for "best friend forever." Iran nurses a bitter rivalry with Saudi Arabia, and the two frequently trade accusations of oppressing their own people.

Zarif went on to say that "These hard-earned rights will be protected, and infiltrators will not be allowed to sabotage them through violence and destruction."

Iran has seen widespread protests in recent days over deteriorating economic conditions, with many protesters chanting against the government.

___

9:15 p.m.

The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is following news of the protests in Iran and assessing whether to make contact with the government or anyone else about them.

Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Tuesday that the U.N. was "evaluating the situation and trying to see what contacts would be most helpful." He says the world body hopes further violence will be avoided and expects Iranians' right to peaceful assembly and expression to be respected.

More than 20 people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested since the protests erupted in several Iranian cities last week.

The demonstrations were sparked by economic grievances, but some protesters have chanted against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

___

9:15 p.m.

The Trump administration is calling on Iran's government to stop blocking Instagram and other popular social media sites as Iranians are demonstrating in the streets.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein says the United States wants Iran to "open these sites." He says Instagram, Telegram and other platforms are "legitimate avenues for communication."

The United States is encouraging Iranians to use virtual private networks, known as VPNs. Those services create encrypted links between computers and can be used to access blocked websites.

Goldstein says the U.S. is still communicating with Iranians in Farsi through State Department accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. He says the U.S. wants to "encourage the protesters to continue to fight for what's right."

Goldstein says the U.S. has an "obligation not to stand by."

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7:30 p.m.

France is expressing concern over the "number of victims and arrests" in the protests roiling Iran, where demonstrators have taken to the streets in several cities.

The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday "the right to protest freely is a fundamental right." It says human rights will be a top priority in France's discussions with Iranian authorities in the coming weeks.

The ministry declined to confirm whether French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was still planning to visit Iran on Friday.

More than 20 people have been killed since the protests erupted last week. The demonstrations were sparked by economic grievances, but some protesters have chanted against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

___

5:30 p.m.

Iran's supreme leader has blamed the protests roiling the country on "enemies of Iran" who he says are meddling in its internal affairs.

State television meanwhile reported that overnight clashes between protesters and security forces killed another nine people.

The demonstrations, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, have brought six days of unrest across the country and resulted in at least 21 deaths.

The protests began Thursday in Mashhad over Iran's weak economy and a jump in food prices. They have since expanded to several cities, with some protesters chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and a prominent judge on Tuesday warned that some could face the death penalty.

___

4:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the people of Iran are "finally acting against the brutal and corrupt" government.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that the Iranian people have "little food, big inflation and no human rights." He adds: "The U.S. is watching."

It was Trump's latest comment on the largest anti-government demonstrations in Iran since its disputed 2009 election. Trump's tweet came after Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the "enemies of Iran" of meddling in the country's affairs.

State television reported that nine people were killed in overnight clashes between protesters and security forces.

Trump tweeted that "all of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets,'" referring to the global deal that removed some economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Trump opposes that deal.

___

4 p.m.

Turkey is voicing concern over protests in neighboring Iran that have resulted in deaths and harmed public property, saying Ankara attaches great importance to the "preservation of social peace and stability" in the country.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry urged protesters to avoid violence and not to fall for "provocations." It also welcomed a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during which he backed the right to peaceful protests but warned against violating laws or harming public property.

The ministry said: "We hope that peace is ensured and common sense prevails so that the events do not escalate, and that rhetoric and foreign interventions that incite developments are avoided."

The protests against the government's handling of the economy, which began Thursday and have spread to several cities, are the largest seen in Iran since those that followed a disputed 2009 presidential election.

___

2 p.m.

Iran's Supreme Leader is saying the country's enemies have meddled in recent protest rallies resorting to various means.

A Tuesday report on the website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quoted him as saying "in recent days" enemies of Iran have utilized various means including money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses "to create problems for the Islamic system."

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, did not name any country but said he would explain more in the near future.

This is the first time Khamenei has commented publicly since protests over inflation and economic corruption began Thursday in Mashhad and spread to other cities.

More than 20 people, including protesters and security forces, have reportedly died in clashes and hundreds have been arrested.

___

11:15 p.m.

Syria has expressed solidarity with Iran where clashes between protesters and security forces over the past days have left several people dead and wounded.

Syria is Iran's strongest ally in the Arab world and Tehran has been a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the country's conflict began in 2011, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the Syrian economy.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement released Tuesday blasted the U.S. administration and Israel for expressing support to Iran's protesters. It blamed the U.S. and Israel for destabilizing the region.

The ministry said Iran's sovereignty should be respected and no one should interfere in Tehran's internal affairs.

"Syria is confident that Iran's leadership, government and people will be able to defeat the conspiracy," the Syrian ministry said.

___

12:15 p.m.

The head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court has reportedly warned that arrested protesters could potentially face death penalty cases when they come to trial.

Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi on Tuesday as saying: "Obviously one of their charges can be Moharebeh," or waging war against God. That's a death penalty offense in Iran.

Ghazanfarabadi also was quoted as saying some protesters will come to trial soon on charges of acting against national security and damaging public properties. He also stressed that attending rallies not sanctioned by Iran's Interior Ministry, which oversees police, was illegal.

Iran's Revolutionary Court handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

___

11 a.m.

A semi-official news agency in Iran is reporting that 450 people have been arrested over three days in Tehran.

The ILNA news agency report on Tuesday quoted Ali Asghar Nasserbakht, a security deputy governor of Tehran, offering the figure.

Nasserbakht said that 200 protesters were arrested on Saturday, 150 on Sunday and 100 were arrested Monday.

The protests began Thursday over economic issues and expanded to several cities. No nationwide arrest figures have been released by authorities since the demonstrations began.

___

10 a.m.

Iranian state television is reporting that nine people have been killed overnight amid nationwide protests and unrest.

The report Tuesday puts the death toll in six days of demonstrations to at least 20 people.

State TV says six rioters were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahdarijan. It reported that clashes were sparked by rioters who tried to steal guns from the police station.

State TV says an 11-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed in the town of Khomeinishahr, while a member of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was killed in the town of Najafabad. It says all were shot by hunting rifles.

The towns are all in Iran's central Isfahan province, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
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