Defiant in the face of the currency difficulties that Iran is facing, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said the U.S. and certain European countries are hypocritical about linking sanctions to Iran’s nuclear energy programme.

He said on Wednesday that the main reason behind the embargoes was not the nuclear issue, but Iran’s resistance against western global dominance. “They pretend that the sanctions will be lifted if the Iranian nation gives up nuclear energy. They lie. They make decisions out of grudge and aversion [toward Iran] and impose irrational sanctions,” he said at a mass rally in North Khosaran province.

The imposition of stiff oil and banking sanctions by the West and the following drop in the rial’s value is hurting ordinary Iranians, who are facing considerable economic hardship. Analysts point out that many small businesses depending on import of essentials — shopkeepers and restaurant owners included — are folding up because viable profit margins through reselling are not available because of the high cost of imports. Iranian students studying abroad and dependent on funds from families are finding it hard to pay tuition fees because the country is no longer a regular part of the international banking system. Oil exporters, carpet weavers, pistachio cultivators have all been badly hit because Iran’s central bank has been targeted by the West.

Meanwhile, work resumed on Tehran’s open foreign exchange market, a week after police and security personnel cracked down on unlicensed money changers and shut down the exchange bureau.

AFP is reporting that a few black market dealers had been on Tuesday offering an exchange rate of 34,000 rials to a dollar, higher that the central bank rate of 28,500 rials.

The steep fall in the dollar-to-rial exchange rate led to protests by shopkeepers in Tehran’s grand bazaar on October 3. The drop of the value of the rial acquired political overtones, with many expressing their political discomfort with the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accusing it of financial mismanagement — a sentiment that has begun to amplify within Iranian society.

More In: International | News