Iran’s president said on Sunday the country’s enemies had hatched a range of plots to push the Islamic Republic to give up its disputed nuclear programme, including driving up the price of tomatoes and other food.
But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said such tactics would not work, Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Rising prices, particularly the cost of tomatoes which form an important ingredient in Iranian food, have prompted growing public criticism of Ahmadinejad’s government. The president has often dismissed complaints as media exaggeration.
"In order to harm us, they (enemies) make plots, for instance they come and push tomato prices up in the market. They think we will give up our ideals with their plots," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in which he said Iran
would not reverse its atomic plans.
The West accuses Iran of seeking atomic bombs and demands Teheran halt sensitive atomic work, a step Teheran has rejected.
The United Nations has slapped restrictions on aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme and Washington has imposed sanctions on two Iranian banks and three firms. Ahmadinejad’s opponents blame price hikes on government spending policies not sanctions.
The latest official figures show inflation running at about 16 percent but economists say official figures underplay what Iranians pay for basic food in shops because they are based on a broader basket of goods that includes some subsidised items.
"Of course, God willing, the problem of meat, chicken and tomatoes will be solved. One should be aware that our revolution is like a bulldozer ... the enemies think by throwing a few small stones and sand they can stop this bulldozer," Ahmadinejad said.
It is not the first time the president has sought to deflect criticism for the rising price of tomatoes.
In a speech in January presenting the new budget to parliament, he also dismissed comments that tomatoes had risen to 30,000 rials ($3.25) per kg from 12,000 rials, suggesting shoppers should be more discerning about where they bought.
"Come and buy them from the fresh fruit and vegetable market next door to us. Why are you buying them from expensive places?" the president, who won over many voters in the 2005 presidential race with his down-to-earth style, told lawmakers.
Some shopkeepers cite the early onset of cold weather for the particularly sharp rise in the price of tomatoes, a reason Ahmadinejad has also cited in the past.
Ahmadinejad swept to power promising to share out Iran’s oil wealth more fairly, but he has been blamed for fuelling inflation by what critics call his profligate spending policies of the country’s windfall earnings from high crude prices.