TEHRAN â€”Â Iranâ€™s president admitted Tuesday that the American-led economic sanctions on the country were partly to blame for a breathtakingÂ 40 percent fall in value of the Iranian currency, the rial, over the past week. He pleaded with Iranians not to exchange their money for dollars and other foreign currencies.
Speaking during a news conference broadcast live by several domestic and international Iranian news channels, the president,Â Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Iran was facing a â€œpsychological warâ€ waged by the United States and aided by what he described as internal enemies.
He said the currencyâ€™s fall was caused in part by the sanctions imposed by the West over Iranâ€™s disputedÂ nuclear program, which have prevented it from selling oil and transferring money. He also blamed a domestic band of â€œ22 people in three separate circlesâ€ who with â€œone phone callâ€ could manipulate foreign exchange trades in Iran.
One Web site,Â Mashregh News, reported Tuesday that Mr. Ahmadinejad had ordered the arrests of those â€œdisturbing the currency market.â€
The fall in the currencyâ€™s value has presented Iran with enormous economic risks, including the possibility of starting a severe bout of inflation, which is already high. A rising sense of economic crisis in Iran could also pose political challenges for the countryâ€™s leaders.
Mr. Ahmadinejadâ€™s address was aimed at the teachers, bus drivers, businessmen and others who have been frantically converting their savings into dollars and euros at the dozens of unofficial currency-exchange shops in the center of Tehran.
â€œI ask you, dear people, do not change your money into foreign currency,â€ Mr. Ahmadinejad said, emphasizing that such moves would only help the â€œenemy.â€
But a fresh day of currency fluctuations played out on Tuesday, with the rial falling, then strengthening before sinking again, to settle around its Monday record low of roughly 37,000 to the dollar. The rate had been 24,600 rials per dollar as of last Monday.
Addressing the mixed emotions expressed by many Iranians, who are confused over whether to blame economic mismanagement by the government or the Western sanctions, Mr. Ahmadinejad accused the United States and â€œinternal enemies.â€
He described the United States government as plotting to make Iranians miserable, emphasizing that the sanctions were hurting normal people instead of Iranâ€™s leaders. â€œThey are telling you lies, their pressures are on the people, not on the government,â€ he said.