Iran disputes ‘exaggerated’ protest death tolls

Protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in Tehran on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 30 November 2019

Iran disputes ‘exaggerated’ protest death tolls

  • The demonstrations flared in mid-November, after the price of petrol in the Islamic republic went up overnight by as much as 200 percent
  • ‘Statistics by international organizations on those killed in the recent incidents are not credible’

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday disputed death tolls issued abroad for bloodshed that erupted during protests in the country over fuel prices, after a rights group said over 160 demonstrators were killed.
The demonstrations flared in mid-November, after the price of petrol in the Islamic republic went up overnight by as much as 200 percent.
Officials in Iran have yet to say how many people died in the ensuing violence that saw banks, petrol pumps and police stations set on fire.
London-based human rights group Amnesty International said in a tweet on Friday that the crackdown claimed the lives of 161 demonstrators.
But Iran’s deputy interior minister, Jamal Orf, disputed such figures.
“Statistics by international organizations on those killed in the recent incidents are not credible,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Orf accused the sources that reported the figures of “exaggerating” them.
The prosecution service, he added, was set to announce the figures based on those it receives from the coroner’s office.
Prior to its latest tweet, Amnesty International said on Monday that 143 demonstrators had been killed in the crackdown, citing what it called “credible reports.”
The governments of the United States, France and Germany have condemned Iran over the bloodshed.
The unrest broke out on November 15, hours after it was announced that the price of gas would rise to 15,000 rials per liter (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 liters, and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.
Iran’s economy has been battered since last year, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.
The government in Tehran said proceeds from the fuel price hike would go to the most needy people in the country.
According to IRNA, the payments have since been made in three installations between November 18 and 23.


Iran nuclear deal parties meet as accord nears collapse

Updated 6 min 31 sec ago

Iran nuclear deal parties meet as accord nears collapse

VIENNA: The remaining signatories to the faltering 2015 Iran nuclear deal will meet in Vienna on Friday with the survival of the landmark agreement at stake after Tehran vowed to continue to breach the deal’s limits on its nuclear program.
Envoys from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran will take part in the meeting, which is the first time the six parties will have gathered in this format since July.
Since May, Iran has taken a series of measures, including stepping up uranium enrichment, in breach of the 2015 deal, with another such move likely in early January.
Iran insists that under the agreement it has the right to take these measures in retaliation for the US’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of crippling sanctions.
Since last month, European members have in turn begun raising the possibility of triggering the so-called “dispute resolution mechanism” foreseen in the accord, which could lead to the resumption of UN sanctions on Iran.
On the eve of what was already likely to be a strained meeting, Britain, France and Germany accused Iran of developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, in a letter to the UN on Thursday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed the allegation as “desperate falsehood.”
However, despite the mounting tension observers say Britain, France and Germany are unlikely to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism on Friday when their diplomats attend the joint commission meeting chaired by senior EU official Helga-Maria Schmid.
Analysts say if UN sanctions are re-imposed and the deal falls apart, Iran could also withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
“It’s not clear whether that’s worth the benefit,” Ali Vaez from the International Crisis Group told AFP.
But he warned the risk of the deal collapsing was increasing as Iran was “running out of measures that are easy to reverse and non-controversial.”
“Both sides are locked into an escalatory cycle that is just very hard to imagine that they would step away from,” he said.
Francois Nicoullaud, former French ambassador to Iran, also says tensions were expected to continue to rise.
“Maybe it won’t be this time, but (the deal falling apart) will certainly be in the background of the discussions,” Nicoullaud told AFP.


Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani warned Sunday that if European partners triggered the dispute mechanism, Tehran may “seriously reconsider” its commitments to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors the deal’s implementation.
European efforts to shield Iran from the effects of US sanctions by creating a mechanism to carry on legitimate trade with the Islamic republic have borne little fruit, much to Tehran’s frustration.
The EU is growing increasingly concerned by Tehran rowing back from its commitments.
The dispute resolution mechanism in the deal has numerous stages, but it can eventually culminate in the UN Security Council voting on whether Iran should still have relief from sanctions lifted under the deal.
In such a scenario, says Vaez, “we will have a major non-proliferation crisis on our hands in the sense that the Russians and the Chinese have already declared they would not recognize the return of (sanctions).”
Vaez said in the end the path to a diplomatic solution would depend on Washington’s next moves and whether it would at least be willing to relax its attempts to prevent sales of Iranian oil, a vital source of income for the country.
“The remaining parties to the deal have proved incapable of providing Iran with any kind of breathing space,” Vaez said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Tehran is willing to return to the negotiating table if the United States first drops sanctions.