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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Iran riot prompts 150 arrests
The people of Sabzevar want their city to be a capital
Iranian police have arrested 154 people after a riot in north-eastern Iran in which a young boy was killed and dozens injured.

The boy died of gun shot wounds during a day of trouble in Sabzevar against the government's decision not to put the city on a list of new provincial capitals.

The mental atmosphere is tense, and there is a possibility that the riots will break out again

Sabzevar MP
About 800 residents took to the streets for the protests, which started late on Wednesday and had turned into a full-scale riot by Thursday.

Iranian security forces, who had responded to the protesters with live rounds and tear gas, arrested 154 people of whom 34 have already been jailed.

Fragile peace

MP for Sabzevar Morteza Kheirabadi warned the government to heed the people's protest.

"Although a relative calm has returned to the city, the mental atmosphere is tense, and there is a possibility that the riots will break out again," he told the official INRA news agency.

"For a re-establishment of a durable calm to Sabzevar, it is necessary that the police provide the people with an appropriate response," he said.

The government has just approved plans to divide the vast Khorasan province into three, turning Mashhad, Birjand and Bojnued into capitals.

President Mohammad Khatami
Parliament still has to vote on President Khatami's plan
Sabzevar, with 500,000 people, is the largest town after Mashhad, and residents fear that its exclusion from the list will also exclude them from government funding.

Parliament has yet to vote on the government's plan.

First trouble

The riot is the first since the reformist President Mohammad Khatami was re-elected in June, after witnessing two spells of major unrest in his first term.

Correspondents say the smell of burnt tires engulfed the whole city for several hours after the rioting died down.

Protesters had smashed windows and blocked railway lines and major roads during Thursday.

They also invaded several public buildings, including the governor's office, state banks, the justice department and a school.

Five people were reportedly seriously injured and remained in hospital in Korasan's capital city, Mashhad.

See also:

22 Apr 01 | Middle East
Iran court sentences 100 rioters
13 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iran riots blamed on hardliners
28 Aug 00 | Middle East
Policeman dead in Iran unrest
11 Jul 00 | Middle East
Six days that shook Iran
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