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On Persian New Year, Iranian leaders promise better times amid pain of sanctions, COVID

An Iranian man holds a goldfish in a bowl at the Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran on March 17, 2021, as Iran prepares to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
An Iranian man holds a goldfish in a bowl at the Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran on March 17, 2021, as Iran prepares to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian leaders promise their people hit by economic hardship due to US sanctions and COVID-19 better times ahead on the first day of the Persian New Year.

The Islamic Republic’s economy is reeling under the sanctions reimposed in 2018 after former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19, Iranians are to elect a successor to President Hassan Rouhani, who is barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term, in a June 18 election.

“Our enemies, and at their head the US, sought to bring the nation of Iran to its knees through ‘maximum pressure,'” supreme leader Ali Khamenei says in a televised address for Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

“We knew the nation of Iran would stand firm. But today, they are acknowledging it,” he adds.

Khamenei labels the new year as one of “production, support and the elimination of obstacles,” while the election also made it “important and sensitive.”

Sanctions have left Iran’s economy grappling with rising inflation and a sharply devalued currency, a decline aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Rouhani, in a separate address, says the past year was “the worst in 60 years in terms of oil revenues,” but he promises improvements, saying the economy is bouncing back.

“In the 42 years since the victory of the (Islamic) revolution, I cannot recall a year as hard and difficult as 1399 regarding economic constraints,” he says.

But the new year would see “wide access to (COVID) vaccines and coronavirus being brought under control, and the end of sanctions following three years of resistance”, he pledges.

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