Ahmadinejad in parliament to push Iran subsidies reform plan


By Ladane Nasseri

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared in parliament today to brief deputies on the economy as he seeks to extend a subsidy-reduction plan that started three years ago.

Ahmadinejad wants to implement a second phase of the plan, including a further rise in energy prices, before he steps down later this year, while parliament maintains the move would fuel inflation, Mehr and other state news agencies have reported.

Pictures of Ahmadinejad addressing members of parliament were shown on state-run Press TV. His speech began at 8:30 a.m. local time and is due to last until 10 a.m., when lawmakers will have the chance to comment, according to Mehr.

Iran’s government started a five-year program to remove food and energy subsidies in December 2010. The second phase of the plan, which was to be introduced last year, was put on hold amid a drop in the value of the national currency and rising inflation, partly the result of stricter financial and energy sanctions by the U.S and the European Union over the country’s nuclear program.

“A rise in the price of produces and energy will harm production and this is why the parliament was against the execution of the second phase of the plan,” parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by Donya-e-Eqtesad newspaper on Jan. 13.

The U.S and its western allies say Iran’s nuclear activities may be a cover for the development of atomic weapons, a charge the Persian Gulf country denies.

Iran is holding a presidential election on June 14 and Ahmadinejad is constitutionally unable to run for a third consecutive time.