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In Iran, currency freefall sparks protests, crackdown

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One of Ahmadinejad's main critics, parliament speaker Ali Larijani, has led the calls to blame the currency crisis mostly on allegedly misguided government monetary policies.

In reply, Ahmadinejad warned that he could consider resigning if his government is put under too much pressure.

"Now is not the time for anybody to settle accounts," Ahmadinejad said Tuesday as the rial hit a record low. "If my presence is a burden on you, (the solution is for me to) write one line to say goodbye."

Tuesday's rate of 35,500 rials against the U.S. dollar compared with 24,000 a week ago on the unofficial street trading rate, which is widely followed in Iran. It was close to 10,000 rials for $1 as recently as early 2011.

Exchange houses were closed Wednesday, and currency websites were blocked from providing updates on the latest rates.

Public grumbling has grown steadily louder over a punishing combination of a falling currency and rising prices, which have put some staples such as chicken and lamb out of reach of many low-income Iranians. Earlier this week, a petition signed by about 10,000 workers was sent to the labor minister to complain that even paying rents has become a struggle.

The owner of a furniture showroom said he hasn't made a sale in 10 days while his workshop rent has been increased by 30 percent. He said one of his workers bought a can of tuna for lunch Saturday for 35,000 rials, or about 98 cents at the current exchange rate. The next day it was 45,000 rials, or $1.26, said Hamid, who gave only his first name because of warnings by Iranian officials not to discuss the economic situation with the media.

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