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Iran Accuses U.S. Of Meddling In Its Affairs After Trump Offers Support For Protesters


Government Supporters Shown On Iran's Streets In Wake Of Protests
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WATCH: Tens of thousands of Iranians have purportedly rallied in support of the government in several cities following several days of antiregime protests and deadly clashes between demonstrators and security forces that have left at least 22 dead. (AP/Iran Press)

Tehran's ambassador to the United Nations has accused the United States of meddling in Iran's domestic affairs after U.S. President Donald Trump offered to support antigovernment protesters "at the appropriate time."

Iran's UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to the UN Security Council late on January 3 that the U.S. government "has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way in Iran's internal affairs under the pretext of providing support for sporadic protests."

Khoshroo charged that the United States had violated international law and the principles of the UN charter and urged countries to condemn Washington's statements.

"The president and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts," said Khoshroo in the letter, which was addressed to the Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"The U.S. Department of State went so far as admitting that the U.S. government wants to encourage protesters in Iran to change their government, admitting that the U.S. is engaged in interfering with the internal affairs of Iran through Facebook and Twitter," he wrote.

LIVE: Follow all the Latest Developments As They Happen In Our Iran Live Blog

The letter was released after Trump pledged to help Iranians "take back" their government and the White House weighed imposing sanctions on those involved in the crackdown against demonstrators.

Trump has issued Twitter statements several times in support of the protesters, including a tweet on January 3 that said he respected “the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government.”

“You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!" Trump wrote in the post.

The United States has also sought a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the Iranian protests and possibly consider imposing new sanctions on Iran over the deaths of at least 22 people during the demonstrations.

"We want to help amplify the voices of the Iranian people," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in calling for UN action.

The UN council has yet to decide on the U.S. request for a special meeting on the protests. Diplomats said Russia and China, among other countries, are expected to oppose taking action on Iran.

U.S. media, citing Trump administration officials, reported on January 3 that the United States is considering imposing new sanctions on Iran over the crackdown.

As U.S. officials urged support for the protesters, European leaders urged caution. French President Emmanuel Macron said the tone of comments about the protests coming out of Washington, Israel, and Saudi Arabia is "almost one that would lead us to war."

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said "we urgently advise against the attempt to abuse this internal Iranian conflict...internationally. That is not going to ease the situation in any way."

The protests, which started in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, began with crowds in cities across Iran airing grievances over the rising cost of food and other necessities, but quickly spread to expressions of anger against the government.

Early on January 3, Tehran organized a massive counterdemonstration with thousands of people pouring into the streets to voice their support for the government.

While many of the antigovernment protesters had voiced opposition to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with some chanting "Death to the dictator," the counterdemonstrators chanted their support for Khamenei, saying, “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader” and “We will not leave our leader alone.”

The counterdemonstrations came as Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, declared that "today, we can announce the end of the sedition” and said that "the number of trouble-makers did not exceed 15,000 people nationwide."

Jafari said his forces have been deployed to Isfahan, Lorestan, and Hamadan provinces provinces to deal with the unrest.

Iran's state-run English-language Press TV broadcast live footage of the rallies, showing demonstrators with Iranian flags and signs supporting the clerically overseen government, which appears to have been caught off-guard by the strength and breadth of the upheaval.

Those reports included footage of pro-government rallies in the towns of Ahvaz, Qom, Kermanshah, and Gorgan.

WATCH: Some residents of Tehran described their financial struggles as days of antiestablishment protests took place in dozens of towns and cities across Iran.

Tehran Residents Share Economic Grievances Amid Protests
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Iran’s media did not offer fresh details about antigovernment protests on January 3. But an Iranian judicial official said that "a European citizen" was arrested at a protest in the western region of Borujerd.

"The person had been trained by European intelligence services and was leading the rioters," Hamidreza Abolhassani, head of Borujerd's Justice Department, claimed. He did not specify the nationality of the detainee.

European leaders and the United States condemned the "unacceptable loss of human lives" and the arrests of hundreds of antigovernment protesters in the first week of protests.

On January 3, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Tehran “to handle the wave of protests that have taken place around the country with great care so as not to further inflame violence and unrest,” and to investigate all deaths and serious injuries.

“I am deeply disturbed by reports that more than 20 people, including an 11-year-old boy, have died and hundreds have been arrested during the recent wave of protests in Iran,” Zeid said.

“The Iranian authorities must respect the rights of all demonstrators and detainees, including their right to life, and guarantee their safety and security,” Zeid said.

Iran's government has blocked access to social media to disrupt the spread of information about the antigovernment protests, which are the biggest challenge to authorities in Tehran in almost a decade.

Iran's oil sector has been boosted by a nuclear deal with the West that lifted international sanctions, but most ordinary Iranians haven't seen their situation improve because other parts of the economy continue to stagnate.

Inflation and unemployment, especially among younger Iranians, are on the rise.

The demonstrations have been taking place in dozens of towns and cities throughout Iran, including several places in the capital, Tehran, where the deputy governor, Ali Asgar Naserbakht, said 450 people had been arrested so far.

A pro-government demonstrator stands under an Iranian flag during a march in Iran's southwestern city of Ahvaz on January 3.
A pro-government demonstrator stands under an Iranian flag during a march in Iran's southwestern city of Ahvaz on January 3.

Other cities where demonstrations have taken place include Sanandaj, Ilam, Khoramdareh, Kermanshah, Izeh, Ahvaz, Shahin Shahr, and Tuyserkan.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said during a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that he hoped the antigovernment protests would end soon.

In a sign of a continued warming of relations between Turkey and its once bitter rival Iran, Erdogan told Rohani that while "peace and stability" had to be preserved, he also agreed that the right to protest should not lead to "violations of the law."

​With reporting by Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and Press TV
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