Iran leader calls economy 'urgent problem'

Iran's supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the economic difficulties of Iranians the main and most urgent problem of the country in a message aired Thursday (March 21st) on state TV, AFP reported.

Iran has faced increased economic hardship in the last 12 months, and the renewal of US sanctions sent shockwaves through its economy.

"Specially in recent months the difficulties for people's livelihoods has increased," Khamenei said in a prerecorded message aired to mark the beginning of the Iranian new year.

"The economy is the country's urgent problem, it's the country's (most) serious and primary problem," he added, mentioning the devaluation of the national currency, the drop in purchasing power and the fall in production as symptoms of the issue.

The International Monetary Fund reported that the Iranian economy slumped into recession in 2018 and has forecast a 3.6% decline in gross domestic product (GDP) for 2019.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani also focused on the US sanctions in his new year message broadcast on state TV immediately after Khamenei's.

Rouhani, who has been under increasing criticism from his political opponents for mismanagement of the economy, called on all branches of government, the armed forces and the people to put aside differences and share the burden of economic "problems and disorder".

Popular demonstrations have been held in Iran in recent weeks calling on the regime to focus its attention and resources on domestic issues instead of igniting conflicts abroad in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

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