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Iranian protests: Government supporters in show of strength

Thousands of pro-government demonstrators are attending rallies in Iran, after two days of anti-government protests.

State TV showed crowds of black-clad supporters in the capital, Tehran.

Dozens of people have been arrested during days of protests over corruption and living standards, which the vice president suggested were being organised by political opponents.

The US administration warned Iran that « the world was watching » its response.

Saturday’s official rallies were organised in advance of the anti-government protests, to mark the eighth anniversary of the suppression of major street protests.

In 2009, masses came out in favour of the then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in response to protests by reformists over a disputed election which returned him to power.

Meanwhile, the Iranian authorities are blaming anti-revolutionaries and agents of foreign powers for the protests.

They have promised that the protestors will be dealt with harshly, while admitting there is genuine and widespread discontent.

How did the anti-government demonstrations start?

The protests started in the north-eastern city of Mashhad – the country’s second most-populous – on Thursday.

People there took to the streets to express anger at the government over high prices, and vented their fury against President Hassan Rouhani. Fifty-two people were arrested there for chanting « harsh slogans ».

The protests spread to at least half a dozen cities on Friday. In some cities police in riot gear and on motorbikes clashed with demonstrators.

Some protests developed into broader demonstrations against the authorities, calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to police beatings. It was the biggest display of public dissent since huge pro-reform rallies in 2009.

Overall, the numbers said to be taking part range from less than 100 in some places to thousands in others – but demonstrations do not appear to be taking place on a massive scale.

On social media, there are calls for more protests later on Saturday. Some reports suggested these were already taking place.(with bbc)

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