TEHRAN - Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday played down Iran's current economic difficulties but warned the country to beware of "enemy" plots to exploit its inflation woes.
"The enemy is waiting to use any problem to break the will of the Iranian nation. Even natural disasters, even earthquakes, droughts or other things like high prices," Khamenei said in a televised speech
His comments came in an address to thousands of people massed into a stadium in the southern city of Shiraz for a rare public rally by the supreme leader, only his second such meeting this year.
Khamenei appeared to acknowledge that Iran was struggling with double digit inflation but insisted the economic woes of the West were far more severe amid the global credit crunch.
He also again backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's handling of the economy. The president has been severely criticised by moderate economists for stoking inflation with expansionary economic policies.
"They (the enemy) are trying to say the government officials are to blame, are not paying attention to their work and that they do not know what is going on," he said according to the translation of state English-language channel Press-TV.
"This is not true. They (the government) are doing their jobs, they know exactly what is going on."
"In the Iranian nation, with the blessing of God, the (economic) problems are far less that those faced by other countries."
Iran has been hit by three sets of UN Security Council sanctions and a range of US-backed measures against its banking system for its refusal to offer any concessions in the nuclear standoff.
Khamenei said the enemy was trying to pretend there were problems in Iran and urged people to combat this through austerity. "The way to fight this is a financial discipline, it is to save. We should not be consumerists."
Iranian officials have also acknowledged the country is facing a drought over summer after an unusually dry spring.
Khamenei urged Iranians to save on water, saying that the country was wasting both drinking water and water used in agriculture.