May 24, 2010 / 11:41 AM / 9 years ago

Iranians shout for jobs during Ahmadinejad speech

* Hecklers rare at president speech

* Sanctions, subsidy phase-out may hit economy

TEHRAN, May 24 (Reuters) - Hecklers at an outdoor speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday shouted their concerns about unemployment, in a rare display of dissent in front of the hardline leader.

While Ahmadinejad addressed a crowd in the port city of Khorramshahr, in a speech marking the anniversary of a key battle in the Iran-Iraq war, several members of the crowd could be heard chanting: “Unemployment! Unemployment!”

The president’s speeches are regularly carried live on Iranian TV where crowds more usually respond with slogans such as “God is Greatest” and “Death to America”.

Ahmadinejad won a second term last June in an election the reformist opposition said was rigged — sparking the biggest anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The government denied any vote rigging and accused foreign powers of fomenting unrest.

Opposition leaders have applied for permission to hold a rally on the first anniversary of the election, on June 12 where they plan to call for human rights and the release of political prisoners.

Iran’s official unemployment rate is 11 percent, but in reality the jobless rate is believed to be considerably higher.

The economy — reliant on Iran’s huge oil and gas resources — has been squeezed by years of sanctions which have hurt trade and hindered some foreign investment, including in an energy sector much in need of modernisation.

Washington has secured the backing of China and Russia for a draft of new U.N. sanctions to be put to the U.N. Security Council as a way of pressuring Iran over its uranium enrichment.

Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi said the measures would hurt ordinary Iranians and blamed the government for provoking foreign powers [ID:nLDE64M09A] .

A phase-out of decades-old subsidies on food and fuel later this year could put further strains on the economy if it adds to inflationary pressures, something which would also be a political problem for Ahmadinejad who has championed the policy. (Writing by Robin Pomeroy)

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