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Supporters and protestors of Iran’s government take to the streets in day of clashes

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Related Story: Thousands take part in anti-government protests in Iran

Iranian hard-liners have rallied to support the country's Supreme Leader and clerically overseen government, as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic.

Key points:

  • The scheduled rallies came as anti-government protests entered their third day
  • Protestors are angry about a surge in the cost of living and a perceived rise in corruption
  • The government's supporters marked the anniversary of 2009's massive protests

The demonstrations, commemorating a mass 2009 pro-government rally challenging those who rejected the re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid fraud allegations, had been scheduled weeks earlier.

State television showed a rally in the capital Tehran and marchers carrying banners in support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran's second-largest city of Mashhad.

The state-recognised rallies came just days after anti-government demonstrators took to the streets on Thursday (local time) to protest against high prices and shouted anti-establishment slogans.

External Link: Tweet by @No2Dictator shows police clashing with protetors in the Iranian city of Rasht

On Friday, police dispersed anti-government demonstrators in the western city of Kermanshah as protests spread to Tehran and several other cities in the largest wave of demonstrations since nationwide pro-reform unrest in 2009.

Police arrested 52 people in Thursday's protests, according to a judicial official in Mashhad, one of the holiest places in Shiite Islam.

The American State Department condemned the arrests, urging "all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption".

The spontaneous demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose after President Ahmadinejad's re-election, which saw eight months of street protests.

However, information about them remains scarce as both state-run and semi-official media in Iran have not widely reported on the protests.

Social media videos showed violent clashes between police and demonstrators.

The outbreak of unrest reflects growing discontent over rising prices and alleged corruption, as well as concern about the Islamic Republic's costly involvement in regional conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq.

The Revolutionary Guards, which along with its Basij militia spearheaded a crackdown against protesters in 2009, said in a statement there were efforts to repeat that year's unrest.

"The Iranian nation … will not allow the country to be hurt," it stated.

The United States and President Donald Trump condemned Thursday's arrests, but Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, told state television "Iranian people give no credit to the deceitful and opportunist remarks of US officials or Mr Trump."

External Link: Tweet from @Raman_Ghavami: Students chanting Death to Dictator and left the uni 20 minuets ago to join others. #Tehran

State television said the pro-government rallies were scheduled to be held in more than 1,200 cities and towns on Saturday.

The events have been held annually since 2009.

Openly political protests are rare in Iran, where security services are omnipresent.

Prominent conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda called earlier for tough action against the protests.

Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a close ally of President Hassan Rouhani, suggested that hard-line conservative opponents of the pragmatist President might have triggered the protests but lost control of them.

"Those who are behind such events will burn their own fingers," state media quoted him as saying.

President Rouhani's leading achievement, a 2015 deal with world powers that curbed Iran's disputed nuclear program in return for a lifting of most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.

A wide shot of a crowd shows demonstrators waving Iranian flags and chanting with their hands over their hearts.

Reuters/ AP

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