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Iranian Officials Urge Public to Cut Back on Electricity Consumption

A heat wave in Iran has prompted the government to call for cutbacks in the consumption of water and electricity. The move comes as Iran deals with intensified international sanctions and an ongoing strike by Tehran's bazaar owners.

The Iranian economy appears to be under pressure on a number of fronts, including a sporadic energy crisis, an ongoing strike by shop owners at Tehran's venerable bazaar, and rumblings of discontent against the government in parliament.

A severe heat wave last weekend intensified Iran's energy crisis, prompting Energy Minister Majid Namjou to call on the public Monday to lower consumption. He is pleading with the Iranian public to reduce both electricity and water consumption, noting that the usage of both has increased between this year and last.

According to the Fars News Agency, Namjou's deputy, Mohammad Behzad, is blaming the sudden demand for energy on the World Cup, as well as the summer heat.

Analyst Houchang Hassan-Yari, who teaches at Canada's Royal Military College, stresses that the decrepit state of Iran's infrastructure - coupled with a lack of investment - has caused a widespread energy crisis affecting different sectors. He says government officials are increasingly shifting the blame.

"It's kind of to hide their government's inability to adjust production to consumption," said Hassan-Yari. "The system is extremely old, and there is no investment to renew the system, update the system and so forth. This is one of many examples. You see this situation not only in electricity, water, but also in gas. In winter, the government asked many provinces to reduce their consumption."

Last week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians to reduce their consumption of gasoline, as well as consumer goods, in a sign that the Iranian economy is under severe pressure.

Houchang Hassan-Yari believes that new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran, as well as unilateral U.S. sanctions, are straining Iran's already weak economy. The sanctions are aimed at convincing Iran to stop its sensitive nuclear activities.

"The economics of the country are going through a very, very deep crisis, and I think the sanctions are deepening this crisis," said Hassan-Yari. "Now, many, including (Iranian) conservatives, are talking about the very negative effects of the sanctions on the economy; opening credits, importing, exporting."

Hassan-Yari stresses that some Iranian factories have been forced to close in recent months, due to the global economic crisis and competition from abroad. He says tea and sugar plants, as well as industrial plants have been affected by the crisis.

Shop owners in Tehran's commercial district, or bazaar, also have been on strike to protest tax increases by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The strike has also caused rumblings in parliament against the president and the way he pushes through legislation.

Conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli criticized President Ahmadinejad last week for imposing laws in a capricious way and ignoring the will of parliament. Tavakoli also alluded to the possible impeachment of both the president and his ministers, citing a clause in the Iranian constitution.