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Iran replaces central bank chief as rial hits record low

TEHRAN (AFP) – Sanctions-hit Iran replaced the head of the central bank on Thursday, state media reported, as the value of the local currency plunged to new lows.

“After accepting the resignation of Ali Salehabadi, the government board elected Mohammad Reza Farzin as the new head of the central bank,” state TV said.

The move came as the rial shed nearly a third of its value on the parallel market in the past two months, from around 330,000 to 430,000 to the dollar, with inflation skyrocketing.

It comes as the country has been rocked by months of protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini on September 16.

Iran has been slapped with rounds of US sanctions since 2018 when then-president Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

The agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme to guarantee that Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon – something it has always denied wanting to do.

The West has also targeted Iranian firms and military generals with sanctions after accusing the Islamic republic of providing Russia with drones to be used in the months-long Ukraine war.

Tehran, however, denies the allegation.

Additional sanctions were levelled at the Islamic republic by Europe, the US, Canada and a number of other countries for its response to the protests over Amini’s death. The 22-year-old Iranian Kurd died after her arrest in Tehran by morality police for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.

Iranian officials say hundreds of people have been killed, including members of the security forces, and thousands have been arrested nationwide in the protests.

Foreign-based rights groups have put the death toll among protesters at more than 450.