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The Brief: The EU's diplomatic dilemma over Iran's petrol protests

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The Brief: The EU's diplomatic dilemma over Iran's petrol protests
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Recent protests in Iran, which started over fuel price hikes, resulted in the deadliest repression of demonstrators in some 40 years.

As the government cracked down on the unrest, the internet was shut off, blocking information and communication.

This week, Iran's President Rouhani announced plans to replace the country’s internet with a state-run intranet, granting the government increased control online.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International is closely monitoring the situation from Brussels.

"What is most interesting, and the more worrying, is that the internet control is not so much linked to the external image — of course, it plays a part — but is mainly related to the organisational capacity of the opposition," says Philippe Hensmans, director of Amnesty International Belgium.

The EU has been under scrutiny for its measured response.

On the one hand, the EU is hoping to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, and balance its response by taking a stand on alleged human rights abuses.

The bloc's new foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, says there is a clear division.

"One thing is the repression that is taking place in Iran, another thing completely different is the Iran nuclear deal where I recognised in Vienna came the good news. It doesn’t prevent us from putting sanctions if it is the case from the point of view of humans right abuses it has nothing to do with the nuclear deal," Borell told our reporter.

Since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the economic crisis in Iran has worsened, and Europe finds itself in the middle of divided forces.

"Europe plays a special role in relation to Iran, compared to the US. Europe maintains a means of communication with Iran, and there are still exchanges going on. And so maybe the European Union wanted to be very cautious in what it does in order to keep open the possibility to maintain contact with Iran," explains Hensmans.

December 10 is World Human Rights Day.

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