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Gas price hikes, rationing fuel protests throughout Iran

By
Allen Cone
Iranian protesters block a highway following fuel price increase in Isfahan, Iran, on Saturday. Photo by EPA-EFE
Iranian protesters block a highway following fuel price increase in Isfahan, Iran, on Saturday. Photo by EPA-EFE

Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Protesters, reacting to tripling of gasoline prices and rationing, took to the streets in several major cities in Iran for the second day Saturday.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported that nine protesters were killed Saturday.

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Iran's chief public prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, warned "saboteurs" would face "severe punishment" if arrested. Foreign powers were behind the protests, he said.

Iran closed two major border crossings with neighboring Iraq, the Iraqi Border Ports Commission said Saturday.

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"The movement of travelers from Iraq to Iran has totally stopped," commission said, adding that the terminals that Iranian authorities wanted them shut down.

Shalamcheh and al-Shib crossings are still open to move goods and trade.

In the nation's capital, Tehran, protesters blocked traffic with cars and buses during a snowstorm. Also, they chanted slogans in front of a pro-government militia office in Tehran. They set fire to billboards showing the picture of Ayatollah Khamenei in the town of Islamshahr, near the capital.

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In the capital of Iran's Azerbaijan province, Tabriz, demonstrators pelted government security forces with stones on a major highway, Voice of America reported. In an attempt to remove them from the roadway, police charged protesters .

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In the region of Karaj, demonstrators chase police after officers shot and reportedly killed two unarmed demonstrators.

On Friday, Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, announced support of protesters against government corruption during a Friday prayer sermon delivered by one of his followers.

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The Vilayet-al-Faqih doctrine requires that the country be ruled by an enlightened religious figure, which is now Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The fuel prices increase by the state-run National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company are an attempt to generate revenue to make up for reimposed international sanctions on oil exports by the United States.

"The decision to raise the price of gasoline is aimed at creating social justice for more than 60 million Iranians, in particular the very low income families, fight fuel smuggling, reduce the amount of subsidies and strengthening our economic power," the minister said.

The government has also cut fuel subsidies for poor people, including those working as informal taxi drivers.

With fourth-largest oil reserves, fuel prices are relatively low compared in other nations. The price is now roughly 90 cents per liter for non-rationed gas, Radio Farda reported. Rationed gasoline is 33 percent higher than the original 30 cents per liter.

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