The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said Wednesday that "seditious" anti-government protests which began last week were over.

"Today, we can say that this is the end of the 96 sedition," Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said, referring to the current year of the Persian calendar, 1396.

He spoke of a victory over foreign plots.

"The enemies perfectly know that by no means can they threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran in terms of defense. So they have mustered all their capital, after the sacred defense, to pose cultural, economic, and security threats against Islamic Iran, and with God's help they are assuredly to be defeated," Jafari said in comments cited by the Mehr news agency.

He also thanked the people of Iran for supporting the regime.

Tens of thousands of people took part Wednesday in rallies across the country to denounce the recent unrest, which began last Thursday with protests in Mashhad - Iran's second city - about austerity and economic woes.

Jafari said that popular support for the government hindered the plans of "seditionists" and allowed security forces to identify the ringleaders.

He accused many of those who participated in the protests of belonging to counter-revolutionary groups.

Clashes between protesters and security forces have left at least 20 people dead, while more than a thousand have been arrested.