Iran: Khamenei warns of government divisions

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The Independent Online

The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told officials yesterday to stop bickering about the country's mounting economic problems and voiced concern at the collapse of the Iranian currency, the rial.

His comments touched on divisions between government agencies and political factions exacerbated by the rial's fall in value over the past few weeks, fanning an atmosphere of crisis.

"The country's officials should know and accept their responsibilities and not blame each other," Mr Khamenei said in a televised speech in the north-eastern city of Bojnourd. "They should be united and sympathise with each other."

The rial plunged by 35 per cent to a record low against the US dollar over the 10 days to 2 October, reflecting a decline in Iran's oil income wrought by tightened sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme.

Iranian savers have rushed to convert their rials into hard currency. Riot police briefly clashed with crowds protesting near Tehran's Grand Bazaar last week against the rial's collapse. Its depreciation has hurt the government's credibility and threatens to aggravate inflation, which is already officially estimated at about 25 per cent. The debacle has fed criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by political enemies eager to pin Iran's economic difficulties on his administration.