Hezbollah chief downplays Iran protests

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on protests in Iran (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

The leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group says President Donald Trump’s “hopes” that the protests in Iran will snowball and lead to regime change or chaos will be dashed along with the hopes of the Israelis and Saudis.

In his first comments since protests in Iran broke out, Hassan Nasrallah said protesters with legitimate grievances have been exploited by political factions who attached political slogans to their protests.

Nasrallah, whose group is funded extensively by Iran, spoke in a TV interview with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen station. He said the protests across Iranian cities are being dealt with “calmly and wisely” by Iranian authorities.

He said the protests are nothing like the massive protests of 2009 in terms of scope and demands, adding that “there is nothing to worry about.”

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9:45 p.m.

Iranian state TV says three security forces have been killed during clashes with militants near the border with Iraq.

The state TV website reported Wednesday that the clashes took place near the Kurdish town of Piranshahr, some 730 kilometers (450 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran.

The report says “armed counter-revolutionary bandits” are at large and Iranian forces are tracking them.

It did not elaborate on the affiliation of the militants. Kurdish separatists and Islamic extremists have carried out past attacks near the borders with Iraq and Turkey.

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9:30 p.m.

U.N. officials are calling on Iran to respect protesters’ rights and release any who have been arbitrarily arrested while demonstrating peacefully.

A spokesman said Wednesday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging respect for rights. He’s also stressing that demonstrations should be peaceful.

Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein pressed Iran to release anyone arbitrarily detained or penalized for peacefully expressing views.

Hussein also is calling on Iranian authorities…

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