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Iran's acting president addresses parliament after Raisi helicopter crash

A general view shows the Iranian parliament in Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 27, 2024   -  
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Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

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Iran's acting President Mohammad Mokhber addressed the country's new parliament Monday in his first public speech since last week's helicopter crash that killed his predecessor and seven others.

Mokhber's speech comes as Iran prepares for a presidential election in just a month's time, a vote that could see the previously behind-the-scenes bureaucrat potentially run alongside others.

Meanwhile, Iran's new hard-line parliament is expected to select its new speaker Tuesday.

In his remarks, Mokhber praised Raisi's time in office, noting that Iran's crude oil production climbed to more than 3.6 million barrels a day.

That comes after Oil Minister Javad Owji said Sunday that Iran was now exporting around 2 million barrels a day, despite Western sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.

Crude oil represents a key source of hard currency for the country.

Mokhber also asserted that Iran's economy fared better under Raisi when Iran took military actions in Iraq, Israel and Pakistan in recent months than in previous instances when Tehran launched attacks.

"We have hit three countries. We hit Israel, the occupier regime of al-Quds (Jerusalem), then the next morning people wake up to the same prices and figures as before they slept. The exchange rate for foreign currencies is the same, it's not the desirable rate but it's the same as before the attack. The inflation rate is the same, liquidity is the same. The market is full of goods needed by people," Mokhber said.

The Iranian rial has tumbled from a rate of 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Today, it stands around 580,000 to $1 in the wake of the U.S.' unilateral withdraw from the accord and a series of attacks on shipping in the Mideast, first attributed to Iran and later involving Yemen's Houthi rebels as Israel's war against Hamas on the Gaza Strip began.

Mokhber's speech come as a week after the dead bodies of the late President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others were found on May 20 in a mountainous region of northwestern Iran following a fatal helicopter crash.

Iran will hold presidential elections June 28 to replace Raisi.

On Thursday, a five-day registration period for candidates will open. Analysts have suggested that Mokhber could be one of those to register.

Meanwhile, Monday marked the first day for Iran's newly elected parliament, following a March election that saw the country's lowest turnout since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Of those elected to the 290-seat body, hard-liners hold over 230 seats, according to an Associated Press survey.

Iran's parliament plays a secondary role in governing the country, though it can intensify pressure on a presidential administration when deciding on the annual budget and other important bills.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, has the final say in all important state matters.