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  • People take part in pro-government rallies, Iran, Jan. 3, 2018.

    People take part in pro-government rallies, Iran, Jan. 3, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 January 2018

Thousands of people have taken to the streets and more opposition protests are expected in the coming days, with at least 22 people already killed

Iran's army chief said Thursday police forces had already quelled the violent anti-government unrest echoing earlier comments by the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as thousands rallied in support of the Iranian government of President Hassan Rouhani.

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"Although this blind sedition was so small that a portion of the police force was able to nip it in the bud ... you can rest assured that your comrades in the Islamic Republic's army would be ready to confront the dupes of the Great Satan [United States]," Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi was quoted as saying.

A day earlier Iran's Revolutionary Guards chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari declared "the end of the sedition," according to the force's website.

"A large number of the trouble-makers at the centre of the sedition, who received training from counter-revolutionaries... have been arrested and there will be firm action against them."

Pro-government rallies were held in the cities of Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Bushehr, Abadan, Gorgan and Qom. State media reported new rallies will be held Thursday in other towns and cities. A massive rally is expected on Friday, after prayers, in Tehran.

The news comes after a week of anti-government protests turned violent, leaving at least 22 people dead. Early on the protesters seemed peaceful and were against corruption and economy, according to the Iranian state-run PressTV, before vandals and violent elements began to infiltrate the protesters, destroying property and using weaponry.

President Rouhani and other Iranian officials have said that the protests were being actively supported by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia in attempt to intervene in the country’s internal affairs and seek its destruction.

The president’s first comments about the protests was in support of people’s right to demonstrate. According to local media the rallies in support of the government included both reformist and conservative sectors of Iran’s political establishment, with both sides denouncing US opportunism after President Donald Trump expressed his support for the protests.

However, the European Union have expressed their support for stability in Iran.

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French President Emmanuel Macron warned Wednesday the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia against making hostile statements on the recent developments inside Iran, calling on them to tone down their rhetoric which, he said, could lead to “war.”

Other EU officials have called for an end to the violence and a dialogue with the protesters. The EU has been normalizing relations with Tehran over the past few years following the historic nuclear deal that allowed for lifting sanctions against the Islamic republic in return for limiting its nuclear program to peaceful purposes only.

While the previous administration was the main broker of the nuclear deal, President Trump has repeatedly said that he would pull out of the agreement but has yet to follow through on his promise.

Also Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu joined in support of Iran's stability. "Iran’s stability is important for us. We are against foreign interventions in Iran," Cavusoglu said in an interview Wednesday.  "There are two people supporting the demonstrations in Iran: Netanyahu and Trump.”

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