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Iranian president removes minister for industries amid car price hikes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows former Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Reza Rahmani. (Photo by Mehr News)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sacked his minister for industries and trade amid soaring car prices in the country and after a government bid to restore a separate department for trade failed in the Iranian parliament.

Rouhani issued an order on Monday naming Hossein Modarres Khiabani as the new caretaker head of the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade (MIMT), thereby removing Reza Rahmani from the post.

Rouhani’s office did not provide any reason for sacking Rahmani, a former parliament lawmaker who held the MIMT portfolio for the past 19 months.

Rahmani had been facing criticism over his inability to contain rising car prices in the market. Some basic models of cars produced inside Iran saw a price hike of nearly 30 percent over the past week.

Reports in the local media suggested that Rahmani’s sacking had been in the offing for several weeks and that the Iranian president was waiting for a decision in the parliament to allow establishment of an independent ministry for trade.

However, the parliament on Sunday rejected the government motion to restore the ministry of trade years after it was merged with ministry of industries and mining.

Modarres Khiabani, the caretaker MIMT minister, was a deputy minister under Rahmani and has served in various posts in the ministry for the past 17 years.

During his time in office, Rahmani oversaw a deep change in Iran’s mining sector as the country moved to expand its exports of various metals to compensate for the income losses caused by the American sanctions on oil exports.

Iran’s trade deficit widened under Rahmani although many insisted his records have been acceptable given the impact of the sanctions on the country’s capacity for import and export.

Data published last month by the Iranian customs office showed that trade deficit had been around $1.5 billion for the 11-month period ending February 19 as exports declined by 4.48 percent to stand at $38.5 billion while imports increased by 2.31 percent to reach $40 billion.

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