Khamenei Urges Iran to Stand Up to Sanctions, Marking New Year
Iranian "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the people to stand up to mounting Western sanctions as the country marked on Wednesday the beginning of the Persian New Year.
If Iranians show more "readiness" to face Western pressure, the next 12 months will be a "political and economic epoch" for the country, Khamenei said in a recorded message on state television, according to the AFP news agency.
The year will be filled with "development, activity and dexterity," he vowed in the message aired shortly after Iranians celebrated the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, marking the transition of winter to spring.
He warned, however, that "it does not mean that the enmity of enemies will subside," alluding to Western opposition to Iran's nuclear program and harsh sanctions against the economy of the Islamic republic.
Coupled with unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union, UN Security Council punitive measures have been implemented in an effort to pressure Iran to cease its nuclear program.
Final decisions on the nuclear drive rest with Khamenei, and Iran has vowed to continue with its program of uranium enrichment.
On Wednesday, Khamenei said economic sanctions had failed to "cripple" Iran, while also noting an increase in pressure.
"It appeared that the enemy was toughening up against Iran" in the past 12 months, he said, according to AFP. "They said and insisted they wanted to cripple the Iranian nation with sanctions. But they failed."
The ailing economy, which has long struggled with high inflation and unemployment, was further buffeted in 2012 by increasingly severe US and EU sanctions targeting its vital oil and financial sectors.
Iran's currency, the rial, has lost nearly two thirds of its value since late 2011.
"Economic pressure was exerted on the people and problems arose," Khamenei said, while implicitly criticizing the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for its "negligence" in handling the economy.
However, Khamenei said that those problems had let Iran gain "dexterity" in battling the sanctions, and also claimed the nation was making progress despite such woes.
Six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- have engaged with Tehran to seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off.
Iran's next round of talks with the so-called group of P5+1 is scheduled for April 5 and 6 in the Kazakh city of Almaty.