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On June 14, the people of Iran voted overwhelmingly to elect Hassan Rohani as their new President. With more than 50 percent of the vote, the moderate Rohani beat his more conservative rivals convincingly enough to avoid a second round run-off vote. Rohaniâs election has met with cautious optimism in the West that relations with Iran, so strained under Rohaniâs predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may improve. Follow here euronewsâ continuous coverage of the 2013 Iranian presidential election and its aftermath.
The nuclear question
Several rounds of talks between Iran and world powers since 2012 have not led to any major breakthrough in the impasse over Tehran's nuclear enrichment. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons. However, the United States and its allies are concerned Iran will develop the atomic bomb, which could shift the balance of power in the region. It's also feared this could give Tehran allies Hezbollah access to nuclear material. Iran claims its nuclear aim is solely for energy and medical purposes, and refuses to stop processing and enriching uranium. Israel has warned it will never allow Iranian leaders to develop a nuclear weapon and has said it is keeping options open to attack Iran's nuclear sites. But Washington and other Western allies have so far resorted to a combination of diplomacy and economic sanctions to put pressure on Tehran.
The US and the EU have stepped up international sanctions on Tehran in recent years, especially targeting Iran's vital oil exports and limiting its access to global financial networks. Oil sales, which represent Iran's main source of foreign currency, have been cut by more than half. In addition, new sanctions that will go into effect in July will target Iran's ports and shipping sectors, and especially gold sales to Iran, which have become a critical source of revenue. However, Iran has said it is reducing its dependency on oil by developing an "economy of resistance". This includes replacing imports by locally produced goods and pushing for barter deals with other countries, as well as the sale of refined petroleum products, which are not covered by sanctions. Iran also announced plans to increase investments abroad and reduce taxes in an attempt to encourage domestic industry.
Like in previous presidential elections, the economy is at the centre of the debate, with a large number candidates criticising outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies of subsidies and handouts.
The national currency, the rial, has been in freefall against the US dollar, diving from around 10,000 to the dollar to more than 35,000 in the past two years. This has pushed up inflation, tripling the price of some goods. While the official unemployment figure stands at 13 percent, many economists believe it could actually be more than twice as high.
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