TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – Iran on Tuesday accused Western countries of fomenting deadly anti-government protests in the capital this week and said it was summoning Britain’s ambassador to file a complaint.
The comments by Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mahmanparast added to growing tensions between Iran and the West, which is threatening to impose tough new sanctions over Iran’s suspect nuclear program and has criticized the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Tehran.
Iran has said as many as eight people were killed in Sunday’s clashes in Tehran. There was no serious violence reported Tuesday, but opposition Web sites said several activists were arrested, including a prominent journalist and the sister of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.
Speaking to reporters, Mehmanparast said the deadly clashes in Tehran were the work of a tiny minority, and he accused outside countries, including the U.S. and Britain, of “miscalculating” by siding with the protesters.
“Some Western countries are supporting this sort of activities. This is intervention in our internal affairs. We strongly condemn it,” he said. “In this regard, the British ambassador will be summoned today.”
He gave no further details, and there was no immediate reaction from Britain.
Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. have all criticized Iran’s violent response to the protests, the bloodiest confrontations between the government and reformist activists since June’s disputed presidential election.
On Monday, President Barack Obama praised “the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people” while condemning Iran’s Islamic government for attacking demonstrators with “the iron fist of brutality.”
Traveling with Obama in Hawaii, U.S. National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough also said the White House is reaching out to international partners to build support for a new round of sanctions against Iran. He said the U.S. was exploring both unilateral or U.N. sanctions.
The sanctions are to punish Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and accept a U.S.-backed plan to curb its nuclear program. The West suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb — a charge Tehran denies.
Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, said the U.S. support for the protesters would only harm their cause. “The praise … will damage your reputation and clarifies the motives of this anti-religious group,” he told state radio.
The exact death toll from Sunday’s violence is still not clear. The government had said eight people were killed, but on Tuesday, Tehran’s chief prosecutor said he was investigating only seven deaths.
One reason for the confusion is that the government has taken the bodies of five slain protesters, including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, in what appears to be an attempt to prevent activists from using their funerals as a platform for more demonstrations. The government says it is conducting autopsies.
In Sunday’s protests, groups of emboldened demonstrators chanted slogans against ruling clerical establishment, casting aside a traditional taboo in the country.
In outbursts of fury rarely seen in past street confrontations, they burned squad cars and motorcycles belonging to security forces who had opened fire on the crowds, according to witness accounts, opposition Web sites and amateur videos posted on the Web.
State-run television reported eight deaths and 60 people injured. But independent confirmation of the casualties has been virtually impossible because of state restrictions on media coverage. Iranian authorities have said 300 people were arrested in the protests, but did not specify where they were detained.
Since then, authorities have restricted Internet access and SMS services, and arreested at least 10 prominent opposition activists, including a former foreign minister and a top aide to Mousavi.
The opposition Web site Greenroad reported seven more arrests overnight Tuesday: Among them were Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a journalist who frequently criticizes the government, and university professor Noushin Ebadi, the sister of the Nobel winner. Others included the son of a prominent ayatollah, a reporter for the opposition ILNA news agency, and several activists.
Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel peace prize for her human-rights efforts in Iran, told the The Associated Press in a phone interview from London that she called her sister on Monday, and that the sister was being punished because of the conversation.
“She was warned not to contact me,” she said. ” “She is detained for the sake of me. She was neither politically active nor had a role in any rally.”
A Dubai television company said Monday that it had not heard from its correspondent in Iran since he disappeared near his Tehran house on Sunday.
Dubai Media Inc. said it was in touch with Iranian officials about the fate of Redha al-Basha, a 27-year-old Syrian. Dubai Media is the government-owned parent of a handful of television stations in the emirate.
Mahmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said he was unaware of any arrests of foreigners. But he said it was possible that foreign journalists who did not have proper credentials had been detained.