Russia says ‘external interference’ fueling Iran protests
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Russia says ‘external interference’ fueling Iran protests

Turkish foreign ministry welcomes Rouhani speech, say it hopes ‘that rhetoric and foreign interventions that incite developments are avoided’

In this picture released by the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this picture released by the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Russia blamed “external interference” for driving anti-regime protests in Iran, echoing claims by Iranian leaders.

In a statement carried Tuesday by the official TASS news agency, the Russian foreign ministry said the protests were “Iran’s internal affair.”

“External interference destabilizing the situation is inadmissible,” it said.

The Russian foreign ministry also said: “We express the hope that the situation won’t develop under the scenario of bloodshed and violence.”

Both Russia and Iran are backers of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and have provided substantial military support to his regime during the Syrian civil war.

Earlier Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country’s “enemies” were orchestrating a plot to infiltrate and target the regime, as he broke his silence on the days of unrest rocking the country.

“In the events of recent days, the enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime,” Khamenei said in a statement shown on state television.

“The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation,” he added.

University students attend a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017. (AP Photo)

The demonstrations, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, have brought six days of unrest across the country and resulted in at least 21 deaths.

Turkey, which has been working with Russia and Iran to advance a peace settlement in Syria, voiced concern over the protests in its neighbor that have resulted in deaths and harmed public property, saying Ankara attaches great importance to the “preservation of social peace and stability” in the country.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry urged protesters to avoid violence and not to fall for “provocations.” It also welcomed a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during which he backed the right to peaceful protests but threatened to “respond to rioters and lawbreakers.”

The ministry said: “We hope that peace is ensured and common sense prevails so that the events do not escalate, and that rhetoric and foreign interventions that incite developments are avoided.”

While a number of European countries have express concern over the violence and called for Iran to respect the right to protest, US President Donald Trump has been outspoken in his criticism of the “brutal and corrupt” Iranian regime. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also threw his backing behind the protesters on Monday.

After Trump’s latest tweet on the demonstrations, Iran’s foreign ministry said the US president should focus on “homeless and hungry people” in his own country rather than insulting Iranians.

“Instead of wasting his time sending useless and insulting tweets regarding other countries, he would be better off seeing to the domestic issues of his own country such as daily killings of dozens of people… and the existence of millions of homeless and hungry people,” said ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (r), Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, (c), and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani pose for the media members in Sochi, Russia, November 22. 2017. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool via AP)

Rouhani has hit back at Trump’s comments, saying the US leader — whose “whole being is against the nation of Iran — has “no right” to sympathize with protesters.

Protests began in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests, which Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed on the country’s “enemies.”

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