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New protests in Iran after President Rouhani calls for calm

Thousands involved in nationwide unrest against corruption and economic woes

DUBAI Ten people were killed during street protests in Iran on Sunday, state television said yesterday.

The nationwide protests have drawn in tens of thousands and represent the boldest challenge to Iran's leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009. Calls for more demonstrations yesterday raised the possibility of prolonged instability.

"In the events of last night, unfortunately, a total of about 10 people were killed in several cities," state television said while showing footage of damage from the demonstrations. It gave no further details.

Unsigned statements posted on social media urged Iranians to demonstrate again in the capital Teheran and 50 other urban centres.

Iran is a major member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and regional power but frustrations have grown at home while it is deeply involved in Syria and Iraq as part of a battle for influence with rival Saudi Arabia.

The foreign interventions are also fuelling anger because Iranians want their leaders to create jobs instead of engaging in costly proxy wars.

The unrest erupted in the second city of Mashhad against price rises but it swiftly spread and turned into political rallies. Some called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and chanted against a government they described as thieves.

Demonstrators say they are angry over corruption and economic hardship in a country where youth unemployment reached 28.8 per cent last year.

Protests continued overnight even though President Hassan Rouhani appealed for calm. In remarks carried on state TV, he said Iranians had the right to criticise authorities but also warned of a crackdown.

"The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society," Mr Rouhani said. Hundreds of people have been arrested but security forces have largely shown restraint.

Iran's leaders believe they can count on support from many of the generation that took part in the 1979 revolution because of their ideological commitment and the economic gains they have made under the government, analysts say.

Two people were shot dead in the south-western town of Izeh on Sunday and several others were injured, ILNA news agency quoted Mr Hedayatollah Khademi, a member of parliament, as saying. It was not clear if the two dead were part of the 10 cited on state television.

"I do not know whether (the) shooting was by rally participants or the police and this issue is being investigated," he was quoted as saying.- REUTERS

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