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Iran's Ahmadinejad Hears Rare Protest During Speech

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been greeted with protests during one of what are usually carefully stage-managed speeches. The complaints in Khorramshahr, in southern Iran serve to highlight the long-standing problem of unemployment in the Islamic Republic.

It was meant to be a rousing speech of national pride, a commemoration of an Iranian victory during the devastating Iraq war in the 1980's.

But instead of the usual government-approved cries of God is Great, and Death to America and Israel, the distinct sound of defiance broke through.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's words were interrupted by the shout of, "We are unemployed." The Iranian leader carried on, saying the government has extensive programs to help end unemployment, but the shouting continued.

While the president has had to bear the public displeasure of U.S. and other western representatives while on the international stage, the protest was a highly unusual display for one of his normally well-choreographed domestic appearances.

Despite its vast oil wealth, Iran's economic situation is unsettled. Unemployment is estimated to run well over 20 percent. Prices of basic commodities are expected to climb as the government is preparing to cut back subsidies later this year. Iran is also facing possible new international sanctions over its disputed nuclear program. Three previous rounds have caused Tehran economic woes.

The government is also bracing for possible political protests next month, on the first anniversary of Mr. Ahmadinejad's re-election. Opposition leaders denounced the vote as rigged, and their supporters have staged massive demonstrations on occasion during the past year.

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