Iran holds pro-government rally after days of protests

Crowds supporting Iran's government gathered in cities across the country on Wednesday in an attempt to counter a week of rallies against the regime

Crowds supporting Iran's government gathered in cities across the country on Wednesday in an attempt to counter a week of rallies against the regime.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has declared the defeat of the “sedition” in the country, referring to a wave of anti-government protests.

Maj Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari made the announcement as tens of thousands of people attended pro-government rallies called to counter the unrest.

State television broadcast some of the pro-government rallies live.

Thousands marched through the capital, Tehran, with some chanting "Death to America" after Iranian officials blamed the United States and its allies for provoking days of unrest and violence.

Among those holding events were the cities of Kermanshah, Ilam and Gorgan.

Some marchers carried Iranian flags and images of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Chants elsewhere included "the blood in our veins is a gift to our leader" and "the seditionist rioters should be executed".

Tens of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in huge numbers of towns and cities since 28 December, demanding freedom from their theocratic government.

The anti-government protests began last on Thursday in the city of Mashhad. At least 21 people have since been killed in clashes with security forces, and hundreds of young people have been arrested.  

The protests were initially against price rises and corruption, but turned to wider anti-government sentiment.

They have been the largest since the disputed 2009 presidential election.

"Today, we can say that this is the end of the 96 sedition," Gen Jafari said, referring to the current year - 1396 - in the Persian calendar.

He said "security preparedness and people's vigilance" had led to the defeat of "enemies".

The general blamed anti-revolutionary agents, pro-monarchists and forces which he said had been "announced by [US-ex Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton to create riot, anarchy, insecurity and intrigue in Iran".

The "enemies" had tried to pose "cultural, economic and security threats against Islamic Iran", he said.

His comments echoed those by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday, which also blamed unspecified "enemies" and which analysts believed referred to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

There were fewer reports of unrest overnight, although it has been difficult to confirm what has happened on the streets of many cities, and social media were still carrying videos and other posts about the protests.

One unconfirmed report on Wednesday spoke of three policemen being killed in West Azerbaijan province.

Officials in the United States and Iran have engaged in a fiery exchange of words over the unrest, triggered by President Donald Trump's tweets in support of anti-government protesters.

On Wednesday, Trump sent his third tweet on the matter: "Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!"

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