World Bulletin / News Desk
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian officials on Wednesday to stop bickering over mounting economic woes as Tehran grapples with Western-imposed sanctions, voicing concern heightened by the collapse of the rial currency.
"The country's officials should know and accept their responsibilities and not blame each other," Khamenei said in a televised speech in the northeastern city of Bojnourd. "They should be united and sympathise with each other."
The rial plunged some 35 percent in the free market to a record low against the U.S. dollar over the 10 days to Oct. 2, reflecting a decline in Iran's oil income wrought by tightened West sanctions.
Iranian savers have rushed to convert their rials into hard currency, and riot police briefly clashed with crowds protesting against the rial's slide near Tehran's Grand Bazaar last week.
By selling its remaining petrodollars to importers of basic goods at state-controlled rates, the government could succeed in preventing the currency crisis from crippling the economy.
But the rial's depreciation has hurt the government's credibility and threatens to aggravate inflation, which is already officially estimated at around 25 percent and believed by private economists to be cresting much higher.
In his speech on Wednesday, Khamenei said: "The illogical s anctions of the West are barbaric," and he acknowledged that inflation and unemployment were pressing problems.
IRAN CAN WITHSTAND SANCTIONS, KHAMENEI SAYS
But he insisted Iran could withstand the sanctions and brushed off last week's street protests, saying they consisted of a few people setting trash cans on fire.
He added that Tehran's merchants should be praised for distancing themselves from the demonstrations.
Khamenei also denounced Western officials who thought the rial's plunge showed Iranian weakness. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that the depreciation arose from decisions by the Iranian government.
"Are we worse off or you? In the streets of major European countries there are demonstrations day and night ... The problems of the West are much more complicated than ours," Khamenei said, alluding to Europe's debt crisis.
"The West's economy is frozen. You are worse off and you are moving towards collapse and recession. These problems cannot bring the Islamic Republic to its knees."
Legislators announced on Wednesday that they had collected 102 signatures in favour of questioning Ahmadinejad in parliament and presented the motion to the deputy speaker. But there was no word on when this might happen.
Armed forces chief Hassan Firouzabadi said this week the central bank was primarily responsible for the currency crunch.
"The problems in the last few days were caused because some in the banking system did not pay attention and the central bank took some issues lightly," Firouzabadi said on Monday, according to the Fars news agency.
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi was quoted as blaming the rial's descent on poor coordination between government bodies and a government failure to heed predictions made by his ministry as long ago as April 2011, Mehr news agency said.
A dozen people killed in separate bombings and shooting attacks across war-torn Iraq, local sources report
'Next week, I expect to provide my final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues,' International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano says
Syrian Network for Human Rights says 20,000 women have been killed in the Syrian conflict, wıth almost 95 percent of them by Assad regime
Regime offensive comes one day after Turkmen fighters retook control of Kizildag town
Russian planes have carried out at least 12 strikes in the area where Turkey downed their fighter jet
The second pilot who ejected from the fighter jet shot by Turkish forces has been picked up by the Syrian army
Sources report that first pilot was killed by opposition forces who shot at him as he landed after ejecting from the plane
Turkish reports say incident happened in border area between Turkey's southern Hatay province and an area in northwest Syria populated by the Turkic-speaking Turkmen minority
Twin attacks target hotel housing judges tasked with overseeing Egypt’s parliamentary polls
Turkey has condemned the ruthless attacks by Russia and have sent a letter to the UN expressing grave concern about attacks in Bayirbucak Turkmen area in northwestern Syria
Iran calls for international investment as it seeks a greater share of the world's gas market
Russia and Iran have 'unity of views' on Syria, a spokesman for Kremlin says after President Putin held talks in Tehran with supreme leader Khamenei
To avoid crossing paths with Russian planes, France is coordinating with Moscow via the U.S. coalition headquarters in Qatar
Russian president is due to hold talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on the one-day visit
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the army's advance, which it said had been backed by Russian warplanes and military helicopters
Russian missiles launched from the Caspian Sea have caused disruptions to air traffic in the Middle East.