TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran on Wednesday over U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s support for rioters taking advantage of protests against fuel price hikes to torch buildings and attack security and police forces.
Iran told the Swiss envoy, who represents U.S. interests in the Islamic Republic because Iran and the United States do not have formal diplomatic ties, that the official U.S. statements were an interference in Iran’s internal affairs.
Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif condemned Washington’s expressions of support for the Iranian people as a "disgraceful lie” on Monday.
"A regime that hinders the delivery of food and medicine to ordinary people — including the elderly and the patients — through economic terrorism can never claim support for the Iranian people in such a disgraceful way,” he said.
President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday declared that street the riots had been put down in a victory over foreign enemies.
Iran’s UN mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi tweeted that any figures on casualties during the unrest were "speculative, not reliable” unless confirmed by Tehran.
"The baseless allegations and fabricated figures by biased Western entities do not shake government’s determination in making prudent economic decisions while respecting human rights of its people including to freely exercise their right to protest in a peaceful environment,” he said.
A lawmaker also said an internet shutdown which has hit the country since the riots began will end within the next few days.
Abolfazl Husseinbeigi told ISNA news agency that the country decided to shut down the internet because a group of "saboteurs” were using online services like navigation and maps to coordinate their activities in large cities.
"Given that the main elements of the mutinies have been arrested, God willing, the internet will be restored in the next days,” said Husseinbeigi, who sits on the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament.
"The Iranian people have again succeeded in an historic test and shown they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country’s management,” Rouhani said Wednesday.
Rouhani said the rioters were few, but were "organized, armed and tasked with acting in a calculated manner”.
"They took action completely based on a scheme planned in advance by the reactionary regional regimes, the Zionists, and the Americans,” he added.
Live footage on national television showed hundreds of thousands joining demonstrations on Wednesday, with rallies in several cities and towns, in which people chanted "Death to America” and "Death to Israel”.
At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched by rioters, Iranian officials said, adding that about 1,000 protesters had been arrested. Quoting security sources, Fars news agency said several Iranian dual nationals were also arrested.
It said that detained German, Turkish and Afghan dual nationals had been trained and funded by foreign services to carry out operations for destroying infrastructure and stirring up civil disobedience.
Officials have already said "thugs” linked to the MKO terrorist group and the United States, the occupying regime of Israel and Saudi Arabia are behind the seditious actions.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said a plot to bomb Iran’s major gas production installations in Asalouyeh on the Persian Gulf had been thwarted, blaming it on rioters.
Iranian authorities said several people, including members of the security forces and police, have been martyred. A local official said on Wednesday "one of the leaders of the riots in Kermanshah province was killed” by security forces.
The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make a decent living has become harder since last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
The government said the gasoline price rises of as much as 50% aim to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes. The monthly cash payments are set at just 550,000 rials ($4.44) per person.