World Bulletin/News Desk
Tehran's Grand Bazaar reopened under close police supervision on Saturday, traders said, days after clashes between riot police and crowds protesting against the collapse of the Iranian currency shut down the market.
The resumption of trade suggested authorities had succeeded at least temporarily in containing public discontent over the plunge of the rial, which lost about a third of its value in 10 days.
But it remained unclear whether the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be able to stabilise the currency, which has been undermined by policy missteps by Iranian authorities And Western economic sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.
On Wednesday, riot police fired tear gas, fought demonstrators and arrested money changers in and around the bazaar, one of the capital's main shopping areas. Ahmadinejad blames speculators for the rial's slide, which is eating into living standards and destroying jobs in the industrial sector.
The involvement of the Grand Bazaar in the protests was politically significant because merchants from the area were key supporters of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Some traders said they shut their shops this week as part of the protests, while others cited fears over their safety.
"It is business as usual today. Shops are open and we are serving customers. Of course we are also watching the currency rates to see what is going to happen," one merchant told Reuters by telephone on Saturday, declining to be named because of the political sensitivity of speaking to foreign media.
Another said, "The dominant thing on every merchant's mind is concern for tomorrow. What really bothers us is the instability of the prices, even more than the high value for the dollar. Merchants need to be able to plan for their business and with instability in currency rates, that is almost impossible."
Ghassem Noodeh Farahani, head of a council of business associations, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying all parts of the bazaar had reopened with security forces present to prevent any interference by "disruptors and agitators".
"The merchants have never wanted to cause disruption and have always been friends and collaborators of the revolution," he said.
The sanctions, imposed because of West over Iran's nuclear program, have slashed the country's hard currency earnings from oil exports, making it more difficult for the central bank to support the rial.
Ordinary Iranians have rushed to convert their savings into U.S. dollars to escape the rial's depreciation and avoid high inflation, which the government says is running at about 25 percent but private economists put much higher.
Although staple foods and basic consumer goods produced domestically are still generally available in Iran, the extreme volatility of the currency and prices has in the past couple of weeks begun to make some foreign products unavailable, Tehran residents told Reuters.
A seller of imported personal computer equipment told Reuters by phone he had halted sales because he could no longer calculate what his products were worth in rials.
In a report to the United Nations General Assembly that was released on Friday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the sanctions were having a "significant" effect on Iran's people and also seemed to be harming humanitarian operations in the country.
"Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions," he said.
But unless Tehran allows more international monitoring of its nuclear energy programme, Iran's economic pain looks unlikely to prompt Western governments to ease the sanctions, and may even encourage them to take further steps.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, on the U.S. Senate's Banking and Foreign Relations Committees, told Reuters this week he was considering how to expand U.S. sanctions against Iran - including how to freeze an estimated 30 percent of its foreign currency reserves held in banks outside the country.
Meanwhile, the European Union has begun discussing the possibility of a broad trade embargo against Iran, moving beyond the energy, business and financial restrictions imposed so far, EU diplomats said.
The National Islamic Committee for Social Solidarity was drawn up nearly one year ago with the aim of providing humanitarian assistance to the embattled Gaza Strip.
The summit devoted to Sahel affairs had lodged an official request with the African Union's Peace and Security Council to form an "international military force to intervene in Libya."
The runoff will see Marzouki, who came in second in last month's first-round vote, face off against Essebsi, a former Ben Ali regime official who came in at first place with 39.4 percent of the vote.
The Kenyan opposition has already described the bill – which will facilitate government wiretapping and allow terror suspects to be detained for up to a year without charge – as "draconian."
India's political opposition demand statement from prime minister after reports of coerced conversions
Daniel Fred Kidega of Uganda became the fourth speaker of EALA after being elected unopposed after his main competitor, Chris Opoka-Okumu, stepped down
“We're not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba, or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.”
Since 2011, the SPLM-N has waged an active insurgency against the Khartoum government in Sudan's southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
As of Nov. 30, the United Nations had recorded a total of 3,188 civilian deaths and 6,429 injuries.
"Russia is ready for dialogue and cooperation, but only on the principles of equality and real respect for our interests," the ministry said.
Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty after the attack and Mohammed Aqeel and Arshad Mehmood were the first prisoners reported hanged under the new arrangements.
The aim of the operation is to reach Sinjar town on the southern side of the mountain, which sits on a road linking Mosul to neighbouring Syria and is a key supply route for the militants.
Bouteflika's mental and cognitive faculties are intact and he will continue to govern Algeria, the ruling FLN party's chairman said
Meeting on a day when Putin mounted a wordy defence of policies on Ukraine and the economy, the leaders of the 28 EU states conferred on how to handle their giant eastern neighbour longer term
It was the first time the United States had directly accused another country of a cyberattack of such magnitude on American soil and sets up a possible new confrontation
Legislation sets defence policies and formally endorses plan to train and equip moderate Syrian force to fight ISIL.