Sunday , September 23 2018

Rouhani evokes Iran-Iraq war in appeal to defy US pressure

Tehran lets money exchanges import foreign bills as rial sinks

TEHRAN, Sept 8, (Agencies): Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani evoked memories of the devastating Iran-Iraq war on Saturday to call for unity in the face of economic hardships and US pressure. “Today, the government is on the frontlines.

This is an economic, psychological and propoganda war,” Rouhani said on state television. “We had sweet days and we had hard days during the sacred defence,” he said, using the official name for the war with Iraq which claimed up to two million lives between 1980 and 1988. “But our nation never backed down. Now, too, our nation will not bow before the pressure of a new group in the White House.” Iran’s economy has been battered in recent months, in part due to Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions in return for curbs to its atomic programme.

Prices are rising and shortages are widespread, while Iran’s currency has lost around 70 percent of its value against the dollar compared with a year ago. Rouhani said that the United States is pressuring Iran and at the same time calling for negotiations “every day”. “Which one should we believe? Your messages, or your brutal acts? If you want the best for the Iranian people why are you pressuring them?”

Rouhani called for unity after weeks of pressure from both reformist and hardline factions over his handling of the economic crisis. “We cannot fight America, the left and the right at the same time. We cannot fight on three fronts,” he said. The president also acknowledged the mounting economic pressure.

“(Yet) we cannot back down from our goals because of temporary difficulties. Remember those (war) days, our heartaches brought us to eventual victories.” Rouhani made the remarks during an event named after Mohammad-Ali Rajai, Iran’s second president whose assasination in August 1981 was blamed on the political-militant group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Iran, meanwhile, gave permission to money exchange offices on Saturday to start importing foreign currency banknotes, state media reported, in an apparent attempt to stop the rial from plunging to a new low against the dollar.

Iran’s currency has lost about twothirds of its value this year, hitting a record low earlier this week of 150,000 rial to the US dollar. It recovered to trade at 130,000 per dollar on Saturday in unofficial trade, according to the Bonbast. com currency market website.

The rial has been hit by a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and strong demand for safe-haven dollars among Iranians. Many Iranians fear Washington’s pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal and renewed US sanctions will cut into Iran’s exports of oil and other goods, which would likely put further pressure on the rial.

A set of US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry is due to take effect in November. “Currency exchange offices have been given permission to import currency into the country and they can import currency in the form of bills,” central bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Currency exchange offices will also be allowed to import gold, the head of the Iranian parliament’s economic committee, Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, said on Saturday, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). Imports of both gold and foreign currency by exchange offices were previously forbidden, Pourebrahimi said.

“In the past, this issue was forbidden and any kind of import would be considered contraband,” Pourebrahimi said. Hemmati, who was appointed central bank governor in July in an ongoing shakeup of senior economic officials, made no mention of the decision on gold imports during his comments. Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday warned against the spread of pessimism in the country, as people face mounting economic woes after the imposition of US sanctions. Addressing the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of high-ranking clerics tasked with choosing the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for people’s problems not to be overstated.

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