Iran says new budget bucks US oil embargo, uses Russian loan

International
Hassan Rouhani

In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Rouhani says Tehran hasn’t closed the window on talks with the U.S. but reiterated his government’s standing condition that the Trump administration lift sanctions imposed on Iran before any negotiations can take place. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president said on Sunday his country will depend less on oil revenue next year, in a new budget that is designed to resist crippling U.S. trade embargoes.

Iran is in the grip of an economic crisis. The U.S. re-imposed sanctions that block Iran from selling its crude oil abroad, following President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“The budget sends a message to the world that despite the sanctions, we will manage the country,” President Hassan Rouhani told the opening session of Parliament.

The proposed budget will counter “maximum pressure and sanctions” by the U.S., he said.

Iranian media, including the semiofficial Tasnim news agency, said that the submitted budget would raise taxes, sell some government-owned property and add more government bonds. But it wasn’t immediately clear from Rouhani’s speech whether these proposed measures would fully compensate for plummeting oil revenues.

Rouhani added that Iran will also benefit from a $5 billion loan from Russia that’s being finalized.

He said the U.S. and Israel will remain “hopeless” despite their goal of weakening Iran through sanctions.

The budget aimed at giving more relief and “removing difficulties” for poor people by heavily subsiding food and medical needs, he stated.

The next Iranian fiscal year begins March 20, with the advent of the Persian New Year. The budget is set to be about $40 billion, some 10% higher than in 2019. The increase comes as the country is suffering from a 40% inflation rate.

Parliament has until early February to discuss the budget bill. The Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, must approve the bill for it to become law.

Iran’s economic woes in part fueled the anger seen in widespread protests last month that Iranian security forces violently put down. Amnesty International says the unrest killed over 200 people. Iran has not given any nationwide death toll so far.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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