EU, European powers urge Iran to guarantee right to protest
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EU, European powers urge Iran to guarantee right to protest

UK and Germany express regret for loss of life, call on Tehran to refrain from violence

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrive to attend a press briefing after their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, April 16, 2016.  (AP /Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini arrive to attend a press briefing after their meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, April 16, 2016. (AP /Ebrahim Noroozi)

The EU pushed Iran on Monday to guarantee the right to protest, as authorities moved to crack down on days of unrest across the nation.

The protests, which broke out Thursday, have quickly grown to become the biggest test for the regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

“We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities and we expect that the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed,” a spokeswoman for the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

“We will continue to monitor developments,” the spokeswoman added.

The latest demonstrations on Monday came despite President Hassan Rouhani’s vow that the nation would deal with “rioters and lawbreakers.”

Iranian students run for cover from tear gas at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. (STR/AFP)

The total death toll linked to the protests currently stands at 13. Authorities have confirmed more than 400 arrests since the outbreak of the unrest, of whom around 100 have been freed.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Mogherini’s comments were echoed by the UK and Germany.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued a statement late Monday saying “there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) shakes hands with his British counterpart Boris Johnson during a meeting in Tehran on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

“We regret the loss of life that has occurred in the protests in Iran, and call on all concerned to refrain from violence and for international obligations on human rights to be observed,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also said in a statement that “after the confrontation of the past days it is all the more important for all sides to refrain from violent action.”

Both the UK and Germany were part of the 2015 nuclear deal.

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