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Iran issues warning to fuel price hike protesters
Tehran, Nov 17 (IANS) The Iranian government has warned that security officials will step up action against protesters who have taken to the streets across the country against the government’s decision to ration gasoline and increase petrol prices.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, speaking during an interview with state television on Saturday, warned that 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".
The protests erupted on Friday 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.
The NIOPDC added that taxis and ambulances would have a 400-litre and 500-litre monthly quota, respectively. The price of CNG and gas oil will remain unchanged.
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.
At least one person was killed during protests in the central city of Sirjan on Friday, officials confirmed.
State news agency Irna said there were clashes with police when protesters attacked a fuel storage warehouse on Friday and tried to set fire to it, the BBC reported.
Fresh protests were held Saturday in the cities of Doroud, Garmsar, Gorgan, Ilam, Karaj, Khoramabad, Mehdishahr, Qazvin, Qom, Sanandaj, Shahroud and Shiraz, Irna reported.
Footage posted on social media suggest other people may have been killed on Saturday.
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.