Iran set for fuel hike backlash

Police guard petrol stations as subsidies are gradually lifted to bring prices up to international levels.

    The price of petrol will rise four-fold in Iran in the coming days as a subsidy cuts plan takes effect. [REUTERS]

    Groups of policemen have appeared at major intersections in the capital Tehran, in apparent anticipation of unrest as the Iranian government makes sensitive cuts to subsidies.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said cuts of energy and food subsidies would start from Sunday.

    Under the new system, each car would receive 60 litres of fuel per month at a subsidised price of 40 cents per litre, a four-fold increase.

    Further petrol purchased would cost 70 cents a litre, compared to 40 cents before.

    Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran, said that things were calm in the streets.

    "The government has been trying to ease up the move to the new prices by paying people and putting about $40 a month into their accounts to give them some consolation over what is going to happen," our correspondent said.

    "The main plan is lift all the subsidies gradually until everything is set at international prices."

    Fuel riots

    In 2007, angry protesters set dozens of filling stations on fire after the system of fuel rationing was implemented.

    Witnesses say clusters of riot police could be seen at every major square in the city.

    There has been no official explanation or report of disorder so far.

    "The people are still waiting to see how bad their lives will be affected so we will wait to see how big the discontent is," Ronaghi said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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