TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard claimed Friday that Western sanctions are helpful because they promote Iranian self-sufficiency and insisted the country's leaders should welcome the measures.
Oil and trade embargos have helped Iran reduce its reliance on the outside world, Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi told worshippers at Tehran University in a pre-sermon speech.
The remarks echoed the defiant mantra of Iranian conservatives who say the economy is strengthening and that Iran is developing more modern technologies — including building missiles, drones, satellites and advancing its uranium enrichment program — precisely because of the West's punitive measures.
Iran is under four sets of U.N. sanctions and stepped-up Western oil, banking and trade restrictions over its refusal to halt the enrichment — a program that can be a pathway to nuclear arms.
The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop atomic weapons. Tehran denies the charge, insisting the country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
The sanctions have cut sharply into Iran's oil sales, which account for 80 percent of the country's foreign currency revenue. At the same time, Iran has been barred from the major international banking systems, which has helped push the national currency to record lows and forced merchants to resort to hand-carrying gold and cash from the nearby commercial hubs of Istanbul or Dubai.
In his speech, Naqdi said a man who runs 100 meters in 20 seconds can finish it in 7 seconds if a wolf is chasing him, and that was the case for Iran.
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