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Mar 20, 2:18 PM EDT

Iran's top leader faults government's progress on economy

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AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader has suggested Monday that the government has fallen short in its efforts to improve the economy as moderate President Hassan Rouhani prepares to campaign for re-election in May.

"There is a large gap between what has been carried out, and what the people and what we expect," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised address in honor of the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz.

Rouhani was a driving force behind Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, which lifted international sanctions in return for restrictions on the country's nuclear program, but the effects have yet to trickle down to many Iranians.

The supreme leader, who supported the nuclear negotiations but has not weighed in on the accord itself, has the final word on all major policies in Iran.

Nowruz is the most important event in the Iranian calendar and is widely celebrated in different forms across the territories of the old Persian empire, including the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East.

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