EU urges end to Iran protest violence

The European Union is urging Iran to put an end to protest violence and show restraint

Iranians take to the streets in support of the Islamic republic's government and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the central city of Arak, southwest of the capital Tehran, on November 20, 2019. (AFP Photo)

The European Union on Thursday urged Iran to show "maximum restraint" in handling protests that have rocked the country in recent days, leaving several people dead, urging an end to violence.

Demonstrations erupted in sanctions-hit Iran on Friday, hours after the price of petrol was raised by as much as 200 percent and unrest spread to at least 40 urban centres, with officials confirming five deaths.

"We expect Iran's security forces to exercise maximum restraint in handling the protests and for protesters to demonstrate peacefully. Any violence is unacceptable," Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.

"The rights to freedom of expression and assembly must be guaranteed." She added that the EU expects the Iranian authorities to restore communications and end a near-total internet blackout in place since the weekend.

Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed, and that the real toll could be as high as 200.

Iran's economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions.

European efforts to ensure Iran can keep trading in spite of the sanctions have had little impact.

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