Iran’s parliament to grill Ahmadinejad on currency

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s parliament is planning to summon President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be questioned over the country’s plummeting currency, state radio reported Sunday. It will be the second grilling of the increasingly embattled leader in less than a year.

The report said that 77 lawmakers signed a petition on Saturday claiming that Ahmadinejad’s administration has been reluctant to regulate the currency market. By law the president has one month to answer the summons.

The Iranian rial has plummeted in value against hard currencies over the past year, with the slide accelerating over the past month. Iranian politicians blame the drop on Western-led sanctions targeting the country’s suspect nuclear program but also on alleged mismanagement by the government of Ahmadinejad, who has fallen out with conservatives who once backed him.

On Saturday the rial traded at 31,000 rials to the dollar. It was about 11,000 in mid-2011. In early October it jumped to more than 36,000 rials from around 27,000 over a week.

Signatories said the summons of the president came after Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani refused to appear in the parliament to answer their questions on the market.

They said the government allowed the importing of more than 15,700 cars using a system for traders to obtain hard currency at low rates that is supposed to be only for foods and medicine. They also said the government did not buy domestic wheat and imported about $2.5 billion of wheat from abroad.

This is one of many rifts between Ahmadinejad and his conservative rivals ahead of the June presidential election.

In March the parliament grilled Ahmadinejad over alleged mismanagement of the nation’s economy as well as his perceived defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the president’s dismissal of an intelligence minister in May 2011. The minister was reinstated later at Khamenei’s instructions.

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