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Iran Still Ready For Talks If US Lifts Sanctions: Hassan Rouhani

04 December 2019

Iran admitted on state television Tuesday that its security forces murdered what it called "rioters" in cities across the country after mass demonstrations over a spike in government-set gasoline prices.

State TV alleged some of the dead were "rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centres with firearms or knives, or have taken hostages in some areas".

Cheap gasoline is practically considered a birthright in Iran, home to the world's fourth-largest crude oil reserves despite decades of economic woes since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

He said Iran has no other option but to defy those who imposed sanctions on Tehran, "but we have not closed the window on talks".

The unrest, which began on November 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300 percent, spread to more than 100 Iranian cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded the clerical leaders step down. After a monthly 60-litre qota, it costs 55p a litre.

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Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington since past year when President Donald Trump pulled out the US from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on the country that have crippled its economy.

Amnesty International said on Monday that it had compiled its nationwide death toll of 208 from reports whose credibility it ascertained by interviewing a range of sources, including victims' relatives, journalists and human rights activists.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran puts the death toll at 750 and said more than 12,000 people had been arrested in the crackdown.

The government had previously acknowledged the deaths of only a handful of people and continues to decline to give an official estimate of the total number killed, but officials in the country have talked publicly in recent days of ordering security forces to fire on demonstrators trying to storm government buildings.

"The authorities have been threatening families, some have been forced to sign undertakings that they won't speak to the media", she said.

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Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy head for the Middle East, called the number of deaths "evidence that Iran's security forces went on a horrific killing spree", and called on the worldwide community to ensure those responsible are held accountable. That's almost 90 cents a gallon.

Iran's per capita gross domestic product, often used as a rough sense of a nation's standard of living, is just over $6,000, compared with over $62,000 in the USA, according to the World Bank.

A lawmaker said last week that about 7,000 protesters had been arrested.

Iranians have already seen their savings chewed away by the rial's collapse from 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 126,000 to $1 today. Daily staples also have risen in price. Meanwhile, a long-detained opposition leader in Iran compared the recent crackdown of protesters to soldiers of the shah gunning down demonstrators in an event that led to the Islamic Revolution, raising the rhetorical stakes of the unrest.

Iranians are no strangers to protests.

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Iran Still Ready For Talks If US Lifts Sanctions: Hassan Rouhani