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Four arrested in Iran as strike continues at sugar company

Haft Tapehm has been hit with multiple protests over mismanagement and alleged criminality since the firm was privatised in 2016
Iran has seen multiple strikes and protests in recent months over working conditions and unpaid wages in a range of sectors (Reuters)

Four people have been arrested in southwestern Iran as locals joined striking sugar workers in mounting protests over unpaid wages and alleged criminal activity by managers, the official IRNA news agency has said.

Protests by workers from the Haft Tapeh sugar company in Shush, a city in Khuzestan province, have been building in recent days

IRNA said locals had joined the demonstrations on Sunday, without giving numbers. 

Those arrested on Sunday included two local workers' representatives and a female reporter, it added. 

Iran has seen multiple strikes and protests in recent months over working conditions and unpaid wages in a range of sectors, including steel, education, mining and transport.

Haft Tapeh, which employs about 4,000 people, has been hit with multiple protests over mismanagement and alleged criminality since the firm was privatised in 2016.

Mir Ali Ashraf Pouri-Hosseini, the head of Iran's privatisation organisation, said on Sunday that several board members had been arrested "over forex issues and other ambiguities," according to the Hamshahri newspaper.

Haft Tapeh's managing director is "on the run," politicians Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini said following a meeting with the judiciary, according to IRNA.

There were reports the government was preparing to pay two months of delayed wages, but workers remained sceptical, the AFP news agency reported.

"For years we have repeatedly heard officials saying that our demands have been met but nothing has happened. We will continue our gatherings until it happens," an unnamed protester told the semi-official ILNA news agency.

The unrest comes as Iran is hit by new sanctions imposed by the United States.

The latest round of renewed sanctions came into effect 5 November, as President Donald Trump's administration seeks to limit the Iranian nuclear programme and pressure Tehran to end its support for armed groups in the wider Middle East region.

The sanctions cover 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, and more than 200 persons and vessels in its shipping sector, as well as targeting Tehran's national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft.