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. Iran cleric warns on country's worsening situation
TEHRAN, Oct 11 (AFP) Oct 11, 2007
Iran's former nuclear negotiator, in remarks published on Thursday, sharply criticised the country's policy over its controversial nuclear programme and said sanctions were hitting the economy.

Hassan Rowhani, who is also a member of two influential bodies, was quoted by Etemad Melli newspaper as saying: "At the moment, we are under threats in the international domain more than ever."

Tehran's opponents were increasing, he said, adding: "The country's diplomacy is successful when it does not let the enemy unite other countries against our national interests."

While Iran is in talks with the UN nuclear watchdog to clear up key issues in its nuclear experiments, major powers engaged in talks on the disputed nuclear programme are to meet next week in Europe to discuss tightening UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has been slapped by two sets of UN sanctions over its atomic agenda which the West, led by the United States, charges are aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge and says the programme is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

"Unfortunately our enemies are increasing in number. Until yesterday, it was only the United States and Britain. Today however, France, with even more enthusiasm, has sided with the United States."

He did not mention any name but his comments echoed criticism on the policies of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rowhani, a prominent cleric and member of the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council, touched upon Iran's worsening economic situation despite the increased oil prices of close to 80 dollars per barrel.

"Unfortunately, there are no signs of a dynamic and healthy economy. If we had a multilateral and precise plan, many of our economic problems would be resolved."

Ahmadinejad came to power on a populist platform that promised to improve the economic situation of ordinary people, based on the country's oil income as the OPEC number-two oil member. He has, however, been criticised by economists for lack of management and not delivering on his promises.

"Our situation is not favourable ... the effects of these pressures is seen in our economic and political relations and our situation worsens day by day," Rowhani said of the UN sanctions which are played down by Ahmadinejad.

"Someone would say it is not important, but it is important for our people, since people pay its price in their economic life," he said.

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