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Food price rises cause concerns in Iran

TEHRAN — Iranians lined up to buy cooking oil and meat in Tehran on Monday, as price increases threatened to stir discontent less than two months before presidential elections.

Prices of staples such as imported cooking oil, chicken, and red meat have jumped up to 60 percent since authorities decided last week to increase the official dollar exchange rate for importers who need the currency to do business. They now pay 24,500 rials for $1, nearly double the previous rate of 12,260.

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Iran’s economy is flagging under international and Western sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. The West suspects the program could lead to production of weapons, but Iran denies the charge.

The sanctions, which include an oil and banking embargo, have led to a shortage of foreign currency and drastically cut the government’s income, while the country’s persistent inflation eats into consumers’ buying power.

Despite government assurances that the new rate will not go into effect for several weeks, many people are stocking up on goods before prices rise even more. The government has banned prices hikes until the new measures are in place and dispatched inspectors to keep tabs on businesses.

In Tehran, stores were crowded with people rushing to beat the new prices.

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