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Europe urges Iran to keep nuclear deal as Tehran protesters defy regime

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An Iranian woman at a vigil for victims of the Ukraine plane disaster talks to policeman at Amri Kabir University, Tehran
An Iranian woman at a vigil for victims of the Ukraine plane disaster talks to policeman at Amri Kabir University, Tehran   -  
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AP - Mona Hoobehfekr
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European powers urged Iran to respect the 2015 nuclear deal on Sunday as demonstrators defied security forces to protest on the streets of Tehran.

France, the United Kingdom and Germany issued a joint statement calling for Iran to return to "full compliance" with the JCPOA, which Tehran has started to unravel after the United States abandoned it last year.

The countries appealed to Iran to "refrain from any new violent or proliferation action” but said they “remain ready to engage in dialogue.”

Protests turn violent

Security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators, online videos purported to show Monday.

Videos sent to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran and later verified by The Associated Press show a crowd of demonstrators near Azadi, or Freedom, Square fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them.

Another video shows a woman being carried away in the aftermath as a blood trail can be seen on the ground. Those around her cry out that she has been shot by live ammunition in the leg.

''Oh my God, she's bleeding nonstop!'' one person shouts. Another shouts: ``Bandage it!''

Photos and video after the incident show pools of blood on the sidewalk.

Tehran's police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, later denied his officers opened fire though the semiofficial Fars news agency said police ''shot tear gas in some areas.''

``Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,'' Iranian media quoted Rahimi as saying. ''Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been agenda of the police forces of the capital.''

The Guard previously has been accused of opening fire on demonstrators during protests over government-set gasoline prices rising in November, violence that reportedly saw over 300 people killed.

US President Donald Trump also sent a warning to Iran, tweeting: “DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS.”

“Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you and the world is watching,” he said.

In other key developments in the Iran crisis:

  • Explosions were heard on Sunday night in Baghdad's Green Zone.
  • The leader of Hezbollah said missile attacks on bases housing US soldiers was only the start of retaliation for America killing a top Iranian general.
  • Britain condemned the arrest of its ambassador in Iran as "a flagrant violation of international law".
  • Ukraine says Iran has pledged to quickly identify and return victims' remains from downed plane.
  • The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard apologised for the missile blunder, saying: “I swear to almighty god that I wished I was on that plane and had crashed with them.”

Iran's state-run media did not immediately report on the weekend demonstrations. However, international rights groups already have called on Iran to allow people to protest peacefully as allowed by the country's constitution.

Riot police in black uniforms and helmets earlier massed in Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University and other landmarks. Revolutionary Guard members patrolled the city on motorbikes, and plainclothes security men were also out in force.

'I feel ashamed'

After initially pointing to a technical failure as the cause of Wednesday’s disaster and insisting the armed forces were not to blame, Iranian authorities on Saturday admitted accidentally shooting the jet down.

Iranians have expressed anger over the misleading explanations from senior officials in the wake of the tragedy. They are also mourning the dead, which included many young Iranians who were studying abroad.

“Even talking about it makes my heart beat faster and makes me sad,” said Zahra Razeghi, a Tehran resident. “I feel ashamed when I think about their families.”

"The denial and covering up the truth over the past three days greatly added to the suffering and pain of the families, and me,” she added.

Another individual, who identified himself only as Saeed, said Iran's largely state-run media had concealed the cause of the crash for “political reasons.”

“Later developments changed the game, and they had to tell the truth," he said.

Resignation in protest

Earlier Sunday, hundreds of students gathered at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University to mourn the victims and protest against authorities for concealing the cause of the crash, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported.

Bahareh Arvin, a reformist member of the Tehran City Council, took to social media to say she was resigning in protest at the government's lies and corruption. "With the current mechanism, there is no hope of reform," she said.

Some Iranian artists, including famed director Masoud Kimiai, withdrew from an upcoming international film festival. Two state TV hosts resigned in protest over the false reporting about the cause of the plane crash.

On Saturday night, police briefly detained the British ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, who went to a vigil for crash victims that turned into a protest.

“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations!” he tweeted. “Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy. Normal to want to pay respects — some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting.”

Britain said its envoy was detained “without grounds or explanation” and in “flagrant violation of international law.”

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Macaire over his ”illegal and inappropriate presence" at a protest.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a member of Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, accused the ambassador of organising protests and called for his expulsion.

'Unforgivable'

Iranian media, meanwhile, focused on the admission of responsibility for the crash, with several newspapers calling for those responsible to apologise and resign.

The hard-line daily Vatan-e Emrouz bore the front-page headline “A sky full of sadness,” while the Hamshahri daily went with “Shame,” and the IRAN daily said “Unforgivable.”

Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition activist under house arrest, lashed out at Khamenei himself, saying that as commander in chief he was “directly responsible.”

Criticism of the supreme leader is punishable by up to two years in prison.

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