JERUSALEM, Sept 27 (Reuters) - International sanctions against Tehran have caused more damage to the Iranian economy than initially thought, according to an Israeli foreign ministry document leaked to Haaretz newspaper on Thursday.
Details of the internal report were published on the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the United Nations to push his case for tougher action to halt Iran’s contested nuclear programme.
An Israeli official, who declined to be named, confirmed the contents of the document, but said there was no sign the economic sanctions were persuading the Iranian leaders to change their nuclear policy.
The document pointed to a more than 50 percent decline in the volume of Iranian oil exports over the past year and a slump in the value of the local currency. It said that ordinary Iranians were suffering as a result of soaring inflation.
“There are indications that the average citizen is actually blaming Iranian leadership for the situation and not the West, which has imposed the sanctions,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed foreign ministry official as saying.
Netanyahu has said on a number of occasions this year that although sanctions were taking their toll on Iran, they were not yet forcing any policy re-think.
Traders in Europe said on Thursday that Iran’s state grains agency GTC has discreetly snapped up around 1 million tonnes of milling wheat in the past two weeks mostly from the European Union.
While the sanctions do not target food shipments, they make it difficult for importers to obtain letters of credit or conduct international transfers of funds through banks.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor reiterated that more pressure had to be brought to bear.
“The sanctions have not yet succeeded in getting (Iranian leaders) down from their attempt to get ambitious nuclear capabilities ... We need to continue, strengthen and intensify the economic, diplomatic and other sanctions,” he said.
“If they want to survive as a regime and (remove) the sanctions, they need to step down from their nuclear project,” he added, speaking in English.
Iran has denied accusations that it is trying to develop an atomic bomb and says its programme is for peaceful purposes.
Netanyahu will set out later on Thursday an ultimatum for Iran to halt its disputed nuclear drive or risk coming under military attack, an Israeli official has said.