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The Rial Drops, And Iran Blocks The News

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

The value of Iran's currency, the rial, has dropped again against the U.S. dollar. One U.S. dollar was being traded on the open market at up to 17,000 rials, according to reports by official Iranian news agencies.

Last week, the rial fell to its lowest value against the dollar in the past two decades, with a dollar being sold by money traders for 18,000 rials. (The official rate fluctuates around 11,000-12,000.)

The value of the Iranian currency began its rollercoaster ride after U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law sanctions on Iran's Central Bank on December 31.

Iranian officials say they are working on measures to stabilize the rial. The head of Iran's Central Bank, Mahmud Bahmani, said last week Iran had some plans to bring the foreign-currency market under control, while adding that it was not in the country's interest to announce them publicly.

Meanwhile, Tehran has done what it knows best: censoring and disrupting the free flow of information., a website that provides up-to-the-minute rates for foreign currency and gold, was blocked in Iran last week.

The semi-official news agency ISNA reported that the blocking of the website had led to an increase in the number of people in front of some of the main exchange centers in the Iranian capital.

On top of that, according to the "Shargh" daily and other Iranian news sources, all text messages containing the word "dollar" in Persian were also being blocked.

Let's hope for the sake of worried citizens who have their savings in rials that the Iranian government is taking some real measures to counter its sliding currency.

Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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