Tehran (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday voiced support for a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing that sparked protests across the Islamic republic.
"I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it," he said in a speech aired on state television.
Protests flared across Iran after the price hike agreed by the High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief was announced at midnight on Friday.
"The heads of the branches made a decision with the backing of expert opinion and naturally it must be implemented," said Khamenei.
"Some people would definitely get upset over this decision... but damaging and setting fire (to property) is not something (normal) people would do, it is hooligans," he added.
One civilian has been killed and others injured during the unrest, with motorists in cities blocking highways and some in the protests damaging public property and fuel stations.
Khamenei said that for the past two days "all the centres of the world's wickedness against us have cheered" the unrest.
These included the Pahlavi royal family ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) group, which Iran considers a "terrorist" cult.
"What I am asking is that no one help these criminals," he said, calling on people to distance themselves from those stoking the unrest.