By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
LONDON, Aug 1 (Reuters) – Iranian lawmakers have given President Hassan Rouhani one month to appear before parliament to answer questions on his government’s handling of Iran’s economic struggles, state media reported on Wednesday.
It is the first time parliament has summoned Rouhani, who is under pressure from hardline rivals to change his cabinet following a deterioration in relations with the United States and Iran’s growing economic difficulties.
Lawmakers want to question Rouhani on topics including the rial’s decline, which has lost more than half its value since April, weak economic growth and rising unemployment, according to semi-official ISNA news agency.
Rouhani, a pragmatist who reduced tensions with the West by striking the nuclear deal in 2015, is facing a growing backlash since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out from the pact in May and said he will reimpose sanctions that seek to throttle Iran’s economy, including its lifeblood oil exports.
According to ISNA, lawmakers also want to Rouhani to explain why, after more than two years of signing a nuclear deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in return for lifting of most international sanctions, Iranian banks still only have limited access to global financial services.
Rouhani’s summons comes amid further shows of public discontent. A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over high prices, water shortage, power cuts, and alleged corruption in the Islamic Republic.
On Tuesday, protesters hundreds of people rallied in cities across the country, including Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz and Ahvaz, in protest at high inflation caused in part by the weak rial.
Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by state television that Rouhani will have one month to attend a parliamentary session and address the issues.
Trump said on Monday that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations, but senior Iranian officials and military commanders rejected the offer as worthless and “a dream”.
Rouhani appointed a new central bank governor last week and accepted the resignation of the government spokesman on Tuesday, suggesting that he is conceding a need for reshuffling his economic team.
In a separate letter to Rouhani on Wednesday, 193 lawmakers welcomed these changes “as a good starting point” and asked for “maximum shake-up” in the government.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)