Ahmadinejad admits to economic pain

TEHRAN — Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a rare acknowledgment Saturday night of the economic challenges his country is facing.

“This was a very difficult year for our economy,” Ahmadinejad said during a live television interview in which he outlined his government’s budget plan for the coming fiscal year. He accused the United States of using its vast economic might to exert unfair pressure on the much smaller Iranian economy.

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Earlier in the day, Ahmadinejad met with his top political rivals, brothers Ali and Sadeq Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament and the head of its judiciary, respectively, to discuss a range of domestic and international issues as Iran prepares to enter another round of talks on its nuclear activities. Discussions with representatives of the United States and five other world powers are set to take place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday.

The meeting with the Larijanis, footage of which was repeated throughout the day on Iran’s state television stations, signaled an easing of tensions in the escalating power struggle between Ahmadinejad and the powerful brothers.

The three did not appear particularly comfortable in one another’s presence, but they met for 90 minutes in Ali Larijani’s parliamentary office and discussed “Syria, our nuclear activities, the national budget and the high prices in the country,” the speaker said afterward.

It was the first public sign that the three men were heeding an admonition last week by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to put aside their differences.

“My expectation of officials is that now that the enemy’s actions have become more intense, they, too, must strengthen internal ties,” Khamenei said.

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