Iran police break up protests over currency crisis

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Riot police in Iran have broken up several protests in the capital over sharp falls in the currency, the rial.

 

Traders protested outside the central bank, calling for the resignation of the government and the bank’s governor, eyewitnesses told the BBC.

 

A heavy police presence remains on the streets of Tehran, following this first sign of public unrest.

 

The rial has plummeted to record lows against the US dollar in recent days, harming the wider Iranian economy.

 

Up to 100 traders and official money lenders gathered in front of Iran’s central bank, eyewitness told BBC Persian. They were attacked by riot police and dispersed.

Reports say many shops in the central Grand Bazaar have also brought down their shutters in sympathy with the demonstrators.

Traders are angry at the lack of direction from the government in the crisis, which they say has led to more instability in prices, making trading almost impossible, says BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji.

The head of Tehran’s bazaar unions, Ahmad Karimi-Esfahani, said shopkeepers had not opened their businesses as they were “worried about their security”.

A protest at the bazaar started with a small group and then grew, he told the Iranian Labour News Agency (Ilna).

A senior Iranian police commander confirmed to Ilna that “a limited number of people protested in front of the bazaar,” but he said the bazaar was not closed.

Hundreds of police are also reported to have rounded up and arrested illegal money changers in the capital.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed Western sanctions for the fall in the rial, saying they amounted to an economic war.

However, many Iranians accuse him of financial mismanagement.

US officials say the slide reflects the success of US economic sanctions targeted at Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.

In a separate development, the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, who was due to give a news conference has cancelled it without explanation.

He was expected to respond to President Ahmadinejad’s accusation that he had undermined the government and lacked ideas on how to deal with the crisis.

 

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