UN chief: sanctions harm Iranians
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 UN General Assembly.
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% of its value against the US dollar in the past week alone.
The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions aimed at curtailing Iran's nuclear programme, which Iran maintains is peaceful. The US 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.
US officials in Washington say the rial's plunge is due to both Iranian government mismanagement and the bite from tighter sanctions. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said 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 programme as a cover to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its programme is geared towards generating electricity and medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.