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Tehran's Grand Bazaar closes amid Iranian protests over soaring prices

Staff Writer |
The Grand Bazaar, the trade center in the Iranian capital of Tehran, shut down on Monday amid protests over the soaring prices and unstable currency rate.

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The protests started in the bazaar before spreading to the adjacent streets. Some protesters set fire to state properties, while police used tear gas to disperse them, injuring a number of them.

A security official of Tehran's Governor's Office said the situation was already under control in the area.

Ahmad Karimi Esfahani, secretary general of the Islamic Society of Tehran Guilds and Bazaar, also confirmed that calm returned to the business center in downtown Tehran.

Esfahani said a group of merchants in the bazaar closed their businesses on Monday in protest over the ailing economy and foreign exchange problems under President Hassan Rouhani's administration.

They "chanted economic slogans to protest the existing (economic) conditions, as a result, a large number of other businesses shut down to escape from possible robberies," he was quoted as saying.

The businessmen have reopened their shops, but this does not mean their rightful demands have been met, Esfahani said.

Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, prosecutor general of Tehran, said the United States is plotting to provoke unrest and civil disobedience in the Islamic republic through economic pressures, Tasnim news agency reported.

"They (the U.S. officials) want to create fear in the hearts of the (Iranian) people by a psychological war and increase economic pressure through imposing sanctions against banks," Dolatabadi was quoted as saying.

In order to reach its goal, the U.S. held talks with high-ranking officials of a number of countries, he said.

Dolatabadi said though the protests in Tehran over price hikes were peaceful, "the enemy wants to portray the public demands as civil disobedience."

The prosecutor also called on the country's officials and citizens to be vigilant against the U.S. plots so that the people's "legitimate demands" would not turn into civil disobedience.

Earlier in the day, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) said it planned to create what it described as a secondary currency market to help ease tensions that plunged the Iranian rial against the U.S. dollar to a record low level on Sunday.

A day earlier, Iran's First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri called on all Iranians to unite and fight in a "serious economic war" launched by the U.S. against Iran.

"The Americans, in their opinion, have begun a serious war against our country, thinking they can succeed in crippling our economy so that Iran, in the words of the U.S. president, would be forced back to the negotiating table," Jahangiri said.

"Under the current circumstances, all state officials including the administration, lawmakers and the elite, as well as all Iranian people, are required to unite against the big plot, which has started, and help (the country) weather these conditions with dignity," he added.

On Dec. 31 last year, at least 10 people were killed in Iran's unrests caused by the deteriorating economic situation.

Washington has threatened to impose the "toughest sanctions" on Tehran if the Islamic republic does not agree to renegotiate the 2015 international nuclear deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the Iranian nuclear deal has not resulted in peace and stability in the Middle East, and demanded Iran curb its presence in the region and stop ballistic missiles' development.

Trump decided on May 8 to quit the Iranian nuclear deal and threatened to reimpose toughest sanctions, including an oil embargo, on Tehran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced a list of 12 demands for Iran, vowing to impose "unprecedented sanctions" if Iran does not stop its nuclear program or curb its presence in the region.


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