10:15 20 July

After protests, Iran's Khamenei demands punishment for those who harm economy

Iran’s supreme leader demanded punishment for those who disrupt business, signaling a tougher line after two days of strikes by market traders, the biggest unrest since the start of the year, APA reports quoting Reuters.


With the economy facing the prospect of new U.S. sanctions, the country’s leadership signaled it was taking a united front toward the unrest. In a speech, President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who has long sought more open economic relations with the outside world, blamed Washington for Iran’s hardship, calling on Iranians to “bring America to its knees”.


At Tehran’s Grand Bazaar on Wednesday, business was back to normal after the two-day strike had closed most shops.


On Monday traders had massed outside parliament to complain about the plunge to record lows of Iran’s currency. Reuters was unable to verify footage that showed police clashing with protesters. Public demonstrations are rare in Iran but in recent months there have been several over the state of the economy.


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the hardline cleric in power since 1989, demanded the judiciary punish those “who disrupt economic security”, in remarks clearly intended to send a message to Iranians who may plan more demonstrations.


“The atmosphere for the work, life and livelihood of the people must be secure,” he said in a meeting with judiciary officials, according to his official website. “And the judiciary must confront those who disrupt economic security.”


The bazaar strike is the biggest sign of domestic disquiet in Iran since the United States abandoned a deal to lift economic sanctions in return for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear program. The deal was the centerpiece of Rouhani’s plans to open Iran’s economy, which won him two landslide elections but has yet to bring widespread economic benefits for many Iranians.


Washington has pledged even tighter sanctions than before, although its European allies and other world powers say they still support the nuclear deal.


“We will take problems. We will take pressure. But we will not sacrifice our independence,” said Rouhani in an address broadcast on state television.


In the latest U.S. push against Tehran, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday that countries buying oil from Iran should prepare to halt all imports of it starting in November or face punishment.

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