Iran's Khamenei,Rouhani promise better times as New Year starts
The Islamic republic's economy is reeling under the sanctions reimposed in 2018 after former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear agreement with Iran.
Battling the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of Covid-19, Iranians are to elect a successor to President Hassan Rouhani, who is barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term, in a June 18 election.
"Our enemies, and at their head the US, sought to bring the nation of Iran to its knees through 'maximum pressure'," supreme leader Ali Khamenei said in a televised address for Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
"We knew the nation of Iran would stand firm. But today, they are acknowledging it," he added.
Khamenei labelled the new year as one of "production, support and the elimination of obstacles", while the election also made it "important and sensitive".
Sanctions have left Iran's economy grappling with rising inflation and a sharply devalued currency, a decline aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis.
Rouhani, in a separate address, said the past year was "the worst in 60 years in terms of oil revenues", but he promised improvements, saying the economy was bouncing back.
"In the 42 years since the victory of the (Islamic) revolution, I cannot recall a year as hard and difficult as 1399 regarding economic constraints," he said.
But the new year would see "wide access to (Covid) vaccines and coronavirus being brought under control, and the end of sanctions following three years of resistance", he pledged.
The 2015 nuclear deal, Rouhani's signature achievement, was meant to end Iran's economic isolation by offering international sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.
But all hopes of economic recovery and an influx of foreign investment were dashed by Trump's withdrawal from the accord.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the deal since President Joe Biden took power in January appear to be stalled at present.