Sanctions are harming Iranian citizens, UN chief warns

Ban Ki-moon cites unemployment, inflation, lack of medicines as products of measures meant to thwart nuclear program, also slams regime’s human rights abuses

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Sept. 24 (photo credit: AP/David Karp)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Sept. 24 (photo credit: AP/David Karp)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran’s general population is feeling the brunt of international sanctions as inflation and unemployment continue to rise, and lifesaving medicines are in short supply, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly released Friday.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Tehran in recent days as the Iranian currency has plummeted, sharply driving up prices. Iran’s rial has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in the past week alone.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions aimed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran maintains is peaceful. The U.S. and European Union have also hit the Islamic Republic with sanctions.

“The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine,” Ban said in his report.

Humanitarian operations have also been hampered, as payment problems have led to a shortage of medicines needed for treating diseases like cancer and heart and respiratory conditions, Ban said.

The sanctions have targeted Iran’s vital oil exports and cut off access to international banking networks. Both measures have reduced the amount of foreign currency coming into the country.

The currency crisis has put Iranian leaders under the most pressure from dissent since they crushed the opposition movement after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Ahmadinejad’s critics have blamed the currency crisis mostly on government monetary policies. They say his administration added to the frenzy to dump rials with policies such as limiting bank interest rates, which led depositors to pull their cash in fear it wouldn’t keep pace with inflation.

U.S. officials in Washington say the rial’s plunge is due to both Iranian government mismanagement and the bite from tighter sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the sanctions have had an impact, but that could be quickly remedied if the Iranian government was willing to work with the international community “in a sincere manner.”

The West suspects that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is geared toward generating electricity and medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

Last month, the four Western powers trying to rein in Iran’s nuclear program accused Tehran of ignoring demands to open key nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors.

The United States, Britain, France and Germany expressed alarm at the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency. It said Iran has effectively shut down a probe of a site suspected of being used for work on nuclear weapons development while doubling the number of machines it could use to make the core of nuclear warheads at an underground bunker safe from airborne attack.

In his report to the General Assembly, Ban also noted his concern over Iran’s human rights situation, though he said the regime had taken some “positive steps,” such as eliminating stoning as a method of execution.

The U.N. chief said he remained “deeply troubled by reports of the increasing number of executions, including in public; continuing amputations and flogging; arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, torture and ill treatment; and the severe restrictions targeting media professionals, human rights defenders, lawyers and opposition activists.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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