TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his unpopular economic policies on Sunday, rejecting a letter signed by 60 Iranian economists that blamed the hard-line leader for skyrocketing inflation, state-run media reported.

Several newspapers published the letter in their Sunday editions. It said Ahmadinejad’s “tension-making interaction with the outside world” has deprived the country of foreign investment and his policies have caused Iran’s inflation rate to reach 30 percent.

In response, Ahmadinejad criticized those he claims are trying to push for American economic polices in Iran.

“Some have tried to propose an economic plan, which is used in the U.S., as a theory in Iran,” the state-run news agency, IRNA, quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Ahmadinejad, whose popularity has declined amid increasing economic difficulties in Iran, also defended his proposal to replace subsidies in Iran with cash payments of about $50 per month that individuals can use to purchase goods.

“Now is the best historic opportunity for applying” the plan, which is known as the Plan for Economic Reform, state TV quoted the president as saying.

The plan has not yet been ratified by Iran’s parliament. In the letter, the independent economists, most of whom work at universities, urged the proposal to be rejected, saying it would lead to even higher inflation.

The populist president was elected in 2005 after promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment.

But his popularity has been decreasing as inflation and unemployment increase. Ahmadinejad has defended his efforts to inject liquidity into the economy, saying it would create jobs. But official statistics say Iran’s unemployment rate has reached 10 percent.

About 80 percent of Iran’s foreign revenue comes from oil exports, but prices have fallen due to a worsening global economy.

The letter published Sunday was the third from economists to Ahmadinejad. The president never formally answered the other two, published in 2006 and 2007.

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