TEHRAN, March 20, 2014 – Iran marked the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, with a rallying cry from its leaders on Thursday to revive the troubled economy sagging under international sanctions.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a recorded message broadcast on state television, said the time has come with the new year — 1393 in the Persian calendar — for the authorities to make a “big push.”

“The essential issue of the economy is important for the country and the people,” said Khamenei, the ultimate authority with final say on all key affairs.

Khamenei also drew attention to cultural issues, which he said will determine “the path and direction of our great country and nation.”

The next 12 months will be focused on the “economy and culture”, he said, without elaborating.

Reeling from double digit inflation, unemployment and stagnation, Iran’s economy has struggled to cope with international sanctions imposed by the US and EU over the Islamic state’s nuclear ambitions.

In a separate message, President Hassan Rouhani said inflation was being tackled and calm restored to currency markets since last August when he took office after a surprise presidential election victory.

“The next year will be the year of economic growth … as we will take serious steps to slow down inflation,” Rouhani vowed.

On the decade-long standoff with the West over Iran’s nuclear activities, he expressed hope to successfully build on an interim deal struck in November and reach a lasting accord with the world’s major powers.

“We brought to a halt the sanctions chariot,” he said of the interim deal, under which Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear activities in exchange for modest sanctions relief.

“This will continue, as we hope to strike a final deal,” Rouhani added.

The six powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany — want Iran to reduce permanently, or at least for a long time, the scope of its nuclear activities in order to make it extremely difficult for it ever to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has always denied any such ambition.