Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi called for national unity on Tuesday as anti-government protests spread to universities and high schools.
Unrest has rocked Iran in the past few weeks after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of the country’s so-called morality police. She was arrested after allegedly failing to observe the republic's strict dress code for women.
Mr Raisi said his country had “weaknesses and shortcomings,” but repeated the official line that Ms Amini’s death was a plot by Iran’s enemies.
“Today the country’s determination is aimed at cooperation to reduce people’s problems,” he told a parliament session. “Unity and national integrity are necessities that render our enemy hopeless.”
In response to comments by US President Joe Biden, who said he would impose “further costs” in retaliation for the protests, Tehran accused Washington of “hypocrisy” on human rights.
“It would have been better for Mr Joe Biden to think a little about the human rights record of his own country before making humanitarian gestures, although hypocrisy does not need to be thought through,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in an Instagram post, reported by Iranian media.
“The US president should be concerned about the numerous sanctions … against the Iranian nation, the sanctions whose imposition against any nation is a clear example of a crime against humanity,” he added.
Late on Monday, the White House issued a statement in which Mr Biden said he would impose unspecified additional measures against Iran later this week on top of the crippling sanctions already in force over its nuclear activities.
“This week, the United States will be imposing further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters. We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely,” Mr Biden said.
“The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery.”
It comes as Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday accused the US and Israel of fomenting the unrest rocking the country.
“I say clearly that these riots and the insecurity were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime, as well as their paid agents,” he said.
Demonstrations across the country have spread to university campuses, which are considered sanctuaries in times of unrest.
Videos on social media showed students expressing solidarity with peers who had been arrested and calling for the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Many universities moved classes online this week.