Iranian VP accuses opponents of planning anti-Rouhani protests

Fars said there were protests in the cities of Sari and Rasht in the north, Qazvin west of Tehran and Qom south of the capital, and also in Hamadan in western Iran.

Iranian authorities have arrested a small number of demonstrators in Tehran protesting price hikes and the president's economic policy, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported Friday. The Revolutionary Guard, a hard-line paramilitary organization, has vast economic interests in the country.

In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters had joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back-pay.

Khamenei also has kept up his criticism of how Rouhani's administration has handled the economy, which includes the supreme leader's opposition to allowing foreign firms to fully enter Iran.

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.

Some social media videos showed demonstrators chanting "Death to Rouhani" and "Death to the dictator". Fifty-two people were arrested for chanting "harsh slogans".

Mashhad's Governor Mohammad Rahim Norouzian condemned the protesters for what he referred to as their "illegal" demonstration while praising the police for "showing extreme restraint" and arresting people "who wanted to destroy public property".

According to CHRI's investigations, social media users discussed the protests using the Farsi-language hashtag, "Mashhad".

"They stole our country" and "left Syria. focused on us instead" the protestors shouted in criticism of Iran's deployment of troops in support of Bashar al-Assad's regime in the face of an uprising that broke out against him in 2011.

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

The economy has risen out of recession and inflation has been reduced, but businesses are still struggling from a lack of investment and the official unemployment rate is 12.4%, up 1.4% from the previous year.

Mashhad was among the areas hardest hit by the closure of Mizan, which had around one million accounts, according to the official IRNA news agency.

President Rouhani promised that the deal he signed with world powers in 2015, which saw Iran limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of worldwide sanctions, would boost economic growth.