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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Monday the government's economic policies had fallen short and called for a new "resistance economy" to create jobs, piling pressure on the president before May elections.
Hardliners led by Khamenei have repeatedly criticised President Hassan Rouhani, particularly for the terms of the nuclear deal he reached with world powers which lifted economic sanctions and was supposed to boost the economy.
“I feel the pain of the poor and lower class people with my soul, especially because of high prices, unemployment and inequalities," Khamenei said in his New Year's message.
"The government has taken positive steps but they do not meet people’s expectations and mine,” he added, setting out a clear battle line before the presidential vote.
The conservatives who hope aim to stop Rouhani winning a second four-year term, have yet to identify their candidate, but a number of prominent hardliners have lined up to criticise his handling of the economy. [nL5N1GK6EB]
"I call the new year, a year of resistance economy, production and employment," Khamenei said in the pre-recorded video broadcast on state television.
His supporters have used the phase "resistance economy" to describe measures to make Iran's economy more self-sufficient, in contrast to Rouhani's policy of seeking to open Iran to more international trade and investment.
Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut; Editing by Andrew Heavens