Tehran (AFP) - Iran's supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the economic difficulties of Iranians the main and most urgent problem of the country in a message aired Thursday on state TV.
Iran has faced increased economic hardship in the last 12 months which was aggravated after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last May.
The renewal of American sanctions, which had been eased in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear programme, sent shockwaves through Iran's economy.
"Specially in recent months the difficulties for people's livelihoods has increased," Khamenei said in a prerecorded message aired to mark the beginning of the new Iranian year (21 March 2019 till 20 March 2010).
"The economy is the country's urgent problem, it's the country's (most) serious and primary problem," he added, mentioning the devaluation of the national currency, the drop in purchasing power and the fall in production as symptoms of the issue.
Khamenei said increasing production was the key to saving the economy and declared "national production" the motto of the new year.
The IMF reported that the Iranian economy slumped into recession in 2018 and has forecast a 3.6 percent decline in GDP for 2019.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani also focused on the US sanctions in his new year message broadcast on state TV immediately after Khamenei's.
"Some might ask till when will these sanctions and problems go on... these problems began with the oath-breakers and those who have recently reached power in Washington, but the (key to the) end is in our hands," he said sitting in front of a row of Iranian flags.
"The more we are united, and the more the enemy realizes that with these sanctions our nation becomes more cohesive, the sooner they will despair and regret (sanctioning Iran)," Rouhani said calling on all branches of government, as well as the armed forces and Iranians from all walks of life, to put aside differences and share the burden of economic "problems and disorder".
Rouhani had heavily counted on the 2015 nuclear deal to help save the floundering economy.
But ever since the US withdrawal he has been under increasing criticism from his political opponents both for mismanagement of the economy as well as his perceived gullibility in trusting the US in the nuclear deal.