Anti-government protests sweep through Iran for a third day



TEHRAN (dpa correspondents) - Anti-government protests swept through Iran for a third day on Saturday, reaching even Tehran, despite warnings from the Interior Ministry against taking part in the "illegal" rallies.
The Iranian news agency Fars reported that dozens of demonstrators were chanting anti-government slogans outside the University of Tehran, corroborated by videos posted online by the participants.



"These gatherings are illegal, and we are asking people not to take part," said Interior Minister Rahman Fasli on Saturday.
Otherwise there could be "problematic consequences," he said, adding that his ministry would consider any requests for peaceful assembly submitted through proper channels, according to the Isna news agency.
On Friday, around 50 people were detained in Mashhad, Iran's second most populous city, after protesters clashed with security forces.
Witnesses say that special police units have been stationed throughout Tehran, with a concentration near Tehran's university.
President Hassan Rowhani has yet to issue a reaction the protests.
Reports of anti-government protests in at least six Iranian cities on Friday had prompted US President Donald Trump to warn Tehran that "The world is watching!", echoing statements from the White House.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman shot back on Saturday, saying the United States, which bans Iranians from entering, should not pretend that it cares about their plight now.
"The Iranian people will not pay any heed to these worthless and opportunistic remarks from the United States," said Bahram Ghassemi.
According to local reports, thousands have taken to the streets to air their grievances - including the high cost of living, unemployment and Tehran's Middle East policies - despite warnings from security officials and arrests.
"Not Gaza, not Syria, not Lebanon, we will only sacrifice ourselves for Iran" and "Instead of solutions for Syria, solutions for our own country," protesters chanted.
Iran is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main allies and supports him militarily, and is also a key backer of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
Critics have accused Iran of putting its anti-Israel policies and support for the Palestinians, the Syrian regime and Lebanon above its own national interest.
Some of the protesters in Mashhad blamed Rowhani for not pushing through economic reforms despite making a breakthrough agreement with the international community in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Vice President Ishagh Djahangiri has accused Iran's hardliners of instigating the protests, the ISNA news agency reported, quoting him as saying that the country's economic problems were being used as a pretext to hinder Rowhani's political reforms.
Videos on social media showed protesters chanting slogans against the country's governing clerics including "Shame on you mullahs, leave our country in peace." It was not possible to verify the videos.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin on Saturday to show their solidarity with regime critics, calling for the release of those detained during the protests across Iran.
The Berlin demonstration was called by the city's Iranian exile society, and according to police, took place without incident.
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Monday, January 1st 2018
dpa correspondents
           


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