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Iran reports economic growth momentum

IMF warned low oil, external factors, may constrain future potential.

By Daniel J. Graeber

TEHRAN, March 17 (UPI) -- The Iranian economy grew by 3.6 percent during the nine-month period that began in March 2014 despite Western sanctions, the Central Bank of Iran said.

Iran's economy emerged from recession in late 2014, though sanctions still curb the country's ability to generate revenue from oil and gas sales. The Central Bank of Iran, however, said a nine-month growth rate of 3.6 percent represents an increase in $54 billion.

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Iranian budget negotiators are working on a draft for a new year that begins Saturday that envisions less dependency on oil revenue. When he wrapped up his mission to Iran last month, Martin Cerisola, assistant regional director for the International Monetary Fund, warned "the sharp drop in global oil prices and an uncertain external environment" presents significant challenges to Iran's economic future.

Sanctions on Iranian oil exports and other parts of the economy resulted in an economic contraction of 5.8 percent in 2012-13. For fiscal year 2013-14, the World Bank estimates the Iranian economy contracted at an annual rate of 1.7 percent.

Sanctions may be revised if there's a breakthrough in multilateral negotiations aimed at resolving concerns over Iran's nuclear research program. Despite the bilateral controversy over a letter by Republican members of the U.S. Congress questioning the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarid said five hours of talks Monday were positive.

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A July report from the Central Bank of Iran blamed external and internal factors on past economic woes. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last month claimed an economic "miracle" when announcing the inflation rate had dropped from 40 percent under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to around 16 percent.

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