Iran's president blames West for economic crisis

Associated Press
Wednesday 11 March 2009 15:23

Iran's president blamed the West today for the global economic meltdown, saying capitalism had failed and US efforts to bail out companies was proof of its collapse.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly lashed out at the West for the current financial crisis, a tactic that many analysts say is meant to deflect criticism from the president's mismanagement of Iran's economy.

But his rhetoric has also got him in trouble back home from those who believe he has spent too much time slamming the West and not enough trying to fix Iran's domestic problems.

"The capitalist economy is on the verge of collapse. Capitalism as a system has failed," Ahmadinejad said in a speech at the opening of the Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Tehran.

The hard-line president said US and European efforts to bail out big companies and inject money into market showed the free market had collapsed. He blamed the meltdown on the lack of values.

"Unfortunately, emptying the economy of moral and religious values and imposing completely profiteering mechanisms has caused numerous economic and social problems," he told the summit, which brings together 10 regional countries.

Ahmadinejad's hard-line allies have publicly gloated in recent months that global financial crisis was God's punishment for the United States.

But the president, who is up for re-election in June, has been criticised by many conservatives and reformists for his mismanagement of Iran's economy. Iran has inflation in the mid-20 per cent range and chronic unemployment, which stands at about 30 per cent by unofficial estimates.

The plunge in crude oil prices, which make up about 80 per cent of government revenues, has been a big blow, even as Iran's annual growth remains at 5 per cent. Oil prices fell from a high of $150 per barrel last July to current prices of about $45 a barrel.

Last month, Washington-based PFC Energy, a leading consulting firm, sharply criticised Ahmadinejad. It said he followed "misguided priorities" in boosting spending and failing to save some of the oil windfall before oil prices collapsed.

During today's summit, Ahmadinejad called for a new global economic system that is based on respecting human rights. He did not provide details. He also called for greater regional economic integration and urged member states to begin discussing the establishment of a single currency and a bank that would promote trade.

The Economic Cooperation Organisation includes Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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