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EU urges Iran to end violence against protesters

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The European Union on Thursday urged Iran to show "maximum restraint" in handling protests that have rocked the country in recent days, urging an end to violence.

Demonstrations erupted in sanctions-hit Iran on Friday, hours after the price of petrol was raised by as much as 200 percent and unrest spread to at least 40 urban centers, with officials confirming five deaths.

A spokeswoman for the EU expressed condolences to the families of the dead and called for dialogue to resolve the tensions.

"We expect Iran's security forces to exercise maximum restraint in handling the protests and for protesters to demonstrate peacefully. Any violence is unacceptable," Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.

"The rights to freedom of expression and assembly must be guaranteed."

She added that the EU expects the Iranian authorities to restore communications and end a near-total internet blackout in place since the weekend.

Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed, and that the real toll could be as high as 200.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Thursday praised the armed forces for taking "timely" action against "rioters" and said calm had returned after days of unrest.

"Incidents, big and small, caused by the rise in petrol price took place in (a little) less than 100 cities across Iran," said a statement on the Guards' official website.

The Guards said the "incidents were ended in less than 24 hours and in some cities in 72 hours" as a result of the "armed forces' insight and timely action". 

The "arrest of the rioters' leaders has contributed significantly to calming the situation".

Iran's economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions. 

European efforts to ensure Iran can keep trading in spite of the sanctions have had little impact.
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