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Interior ministry bans demonstration by unemployed

TEHRAN, Iran, December 18, 1999 (AFP) - Iran's interior ministry on Saturday banned a demonstration by unemployed people planned for Sunday in Tehran and several other cities, the official agency IRNA reported. The demonstrations were due to take place outside the social security offices in Tehran and elsewhere to protest against non-payment of unemployment benefit.

In a statement, the ministry stressed any gathering in front of social security offices would be deemed "forbidden and illegal", IRNA said.

Iran has for several years been facing a serious economic crisis, made worse in recent years by the fall in oil-related income.

The country has faced rampant inflation for two consecutive years. The official inflation rate stands at less than 20 percent, but is, according to experts, at more than 40 percent in certain sectors of the economy.

Unemployment, particularly among the young, is a genuine national problem and a serious preoccupation for the regime.

According to statistics from the government's planning department, the country must create some 900,000 jobs a year in order to deal with unemployment.

The government's five-year plan - the first of President Mohammed Khatami's government since its formation in 1997 and the third since the Islamic revolution of 1979 - foresees the creation of 750,000 jobs for young Iranians.