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    Iran’s supreme leader breaks silence on protests, blames US

    DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded publicly on Monday to the biggest protests in Iran in years, breaking weeks of silence to condemn what he called “rioting” and accuse the United States (US) and Israel of planning the protests.

    The unrest, ignited by the death of a young woman in the custody of Iran’s morality police, is flaring up across the country for a third week despite government efforts to crack down.

    On Monday, Iran shuttered its top technology university following an hours-long standoff between students and the police that turned the prestigious institution into the latest flashpoint of protests and ended with hundreds of young people arrested.

    Speaking to a cadre of police students in Tehran, Khamenei said he was “deeply heartbroken” by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, calling it a “tragic incident”. However, he lambasted the protests as a foreign plot to destabilise Iran, echoing authorities’ previous comments.

    “This rioting was planned,” he said. “These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”

    Meanwhile, Sharif University of Technology in Tehran announced that only doctoral students would be allowed on campus until further notice following hours of turmoil on Sunday, when witnesses said antigovernment protesters clashed with pro-establishment students.

    The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the police kept hundreds of students holed up on campus and fired rounds of tear gas to disperse the demonstrations.

    Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran. PHOTO: AP
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