Protests which erupted on Friday in Iran after the government unexpectedly announced it was rationing petrol and removing subsidies – sending prices up by 50% have killed 3 persons.
The measures are the latest sign of pressure on the Iranian economy after the re-imposition of US sanctions. The government says the changes will free up money to help the poor.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said he supports a fuel price rise that has sparked protests across the country and blamed “hooligans” and counter-revolutionaries for violence that has been witnessed in several cities.
In a statement on Sunday, Ayatollah Khamenei acknowledged that some people were “no doubt worried” by the decision to increase fuel prices.
“But sabotage and arson is done by hooligans not our people,” he said, quoted by state TV. “The counter-revolution and Iran’s enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so.”
Internet monitoring service Netblocks said late on Saturday that Iran was experiencing a near-total national internet shutdown.
The move was condemned by US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus who tweeted: “We condemn the attempted shutdown of the internet. Let them speak!”
Prosecutors quoted by the semi-official Isna news agency on Sunday said 40 people were arrested in the central city of Yazd, most of whom were not local residents. Demonstrations were reported on Saturday in the cities of Doroud, Garmsar, Gorgan, Ilam, Karaj, Khoramabad, Mehdishahr, Qazvin, Qom, Sanandaj, Shahroud and Shiraz, state media reported.
Reports says Under the new fuel measures; each motorist is allowed to buy 60 litres (13 gallons) of petrol a month at 15,000 rials ($0.13; £0.10) a litre. Each additional litre then costs 30,000 rials.
Previously, drivers were allowed up to 250 litres at 10,000 rials per litre,
Revenue gained from removing subsidies on petrol will be used for cash payments to low-income households, the government says.
US sanctions were re-imposed last year after President Donald Trump abandoned the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
The sanctions have led to a sharp downturn in Iran’s economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors and triggering protests.