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Surge in petrol prices triggers protests in Iran

People protest against increased petrol prices on a motorway in Tehran on November 16, 2019.
People protest against increased petrol prices on a motorway in Tehran on November 16, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee, WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

One civilian was killed and other people injured in Iran's Sirjan, the semi-official news agency ISNA said Saturday, a day after protests in the central city over a petrol price hike.

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"Unfortunately someone was killed," Sirjan's acting governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi said in the report, adding that the cause of the death and whether "the individual was shot or not" was still unclear.

Other people were injured during the demonstrations, he said.

Mahmoudabadi emphasised that "security forces did not have permission to shoot and were only allowed to fire warning shots... which they did."

He said it was a "calm gathering" that was exploited by some who "destroyed public property, damaged fuel stations and also wanted to access the oil company's main fuel depots and set fire to them".

Their effort was thwarted by forces including the police, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia, ISNA quoted him as saying.

Iran imposed petrol rationing and raised pump prices by at least 50 percent on Friday, saying the move was aimed at helping citizens in need with cash handouts.

The measure was expected to bring in 300 trillion rials ($2.55 billion) per annum, the head of the country's Planning and Budget Organisation, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said on state television.

About 60 million Iranians in need would get payments ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.68) for couples to slightly more than two million rials ($17.46) for families with five members or more, he added.

Under the scheme, drivers with fuel cards will pay 15,000 rials (13 US cents) a litre for the first 60 litres of petrol bought each month, with each additional litre costing them 30,000 rials.

Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the subsidies system and curbing large-scale smuggling.

Iran's economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The rial has plummeted in value against the US dollar, inflation is now running at more than 40 percent and the International Monetary Fund projects that the troubled economy will contract by nine percent this year and stagnate in 2020.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that currently "75 percent of the country are under pressure" and the extra revenue will only go to them, not the treasury.

Rouhani had tried to hike fuel prices in December but was blocked by parliament in the wake of protests that rocked Iran for days.

The speaker at the time ruled out the move as unpopular and said it was "not in the interests of the country".

(AFP)
 

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