Iran condemns US for support of 'rioters' after violent petrol protests

Foreign ministry says it was reacting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's expression of support for protesters

Iran on Sunday condemned the US for supporting "rioters" after two days of violent protests against a petrol price rise.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said it was reacting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's "expression of support for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks".

Protests erupted in Iran on Friday, hours after it was announced that the price of petrol would rise to 15,000 rials (Dh1.65) a litre from 10,000 for the first 60 litres, and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.

In a tweet on Saturday, Mr Pompeo said in response to the demonstrations that "the United States is with you".

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed his comments in Sunday night's statement.

"The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy," Mr Mousavi said.

"The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of him have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people."

He blasted Washington's "ill intent" over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrew in May last year from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

"It's curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America's economic terrorism," Mr Mousavi said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Sunday that Iran could not allow "insecurity" after two days of protests in which two people died, dozens were arrested and internet access was restricted.

"Protesting is the people's right but protesting is different from rioting," Mr Rouhani said. "We should not allow insecurity in society."

He defended the petrol price rise, which the government says will finance social welfare spending amid a sharp economic downturn.

The petrol plan is expected to generate 300 trillion rials a year, from which the government says about 60 million needy would receive payments.

"For this we should either increase taxes on the people, export more oil or reduce subsidies and return the revenues to the people in need," Mr Rouhani said.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "some lost their lives" in the violence and blamed "hooligans".

"All the centres of the world's wickedness against us have cheered" for the protests, Mr Khamenei said.

The latest death was a policeman shot in a clash with protesters in the western city of Kermanhshah.

Several people were wounded and dozens arrested in the demonstrations that saw drivers block motorways and others burn public property.