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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Iran protests

More protests were held in Tehran on Thursday night, according to videos posted by activists

United States ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at United Nations headquarters on January 2, 2018. She called for the world body to show support for anti-government protesters in Iran. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo
United States ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at United Nations headquarters on January 2, 2018. She called for the world body to show support for anti-government protesters in Iran. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

The UN Security Council will discuss the anti-government demonstrations in Iran at an emergency meeting Friday, after the United States asked the world body to show support for the protesters.

With council members divided in their views of the protests that have roiled the Islamic Republic for the past week, it is not yet clear how the discussion will take shape or what might come out of it.

Kazakhstan, the current council president, confirmed that Friday afternoon's meeting would discuss the situation in Iran. The US had called for the meeting on Tuesday, but council members could insist on a vote before taking up the topic, and it would take nine of the 15 votes to go forward.

"This is a matter of fundamental human rights for the Iranian people, but it is also a matter of international peace and security," the US envoy, Nikki Haley, said on Thursday night. She added that it would be "telling if any country tries to deny the Security Council from even having this discussion".

Iran's Revolutionary Guard said on Wednesday that the protests that began on December 28 had been contained, but activists posted new videos purporting to show protests in Tehran on Thursday night, including chants against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian authorities have organised pro-government rallies in response, with more planned to be held after Friday prayers.

Iran's interior minister said on Thursday that up to 42,000 people had taken part in the week of protests sparked by economic woes, the first time the government has given an estimate of the participation in the unrest. At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

Iran's prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has said an American CIA official was the "main designer" of the demonstrations. And Iran's UN envoy, Gholamali Khoshroo, complained in a letter to the Security Council president on Wednesday that US president Donald Trump's "absurd tweets" had "incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts".

Mr Trump's administration has denied having any hand in the demonstrations, saying they arose completely spontaneously. The CIA declined to comment.

The president's tweets have not called for violence or disruptive acts, but he has commended the protests, expressing "such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government" and pledging "great support from the United States". Ms Haley praised the anti-government protesters as brave and said "the UN must speak out" to support them.

"The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause," she said on Tuesday.

Not all council members see a need to weigh in.

Russia's US embassy warned on Monday against "external interference" in what it views as Iran's domestic issue; Moscow and Tehran have close ties.

The Iranian protests have given Mr Trump a fresh avenue to try to muster world opinion against a nation he has decried since he ran for president.

After taking office last year, Mr Trump refused this past fall to certify Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that lifted some sanctions in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme. He said Tehran was getting disproportionate benefits, considering its concessions.

The US imposed new sanctions on Thursday on five Iranian entities over their involvement in developing ballistic missiles. While those sanctions were unrelated to the ongoing protests, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said more sanctions "targeting human rights abuses are coming."

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