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“The experts are in discussions, but in any case Iran is pursuing the development of its nuclear weapon. I believe that on this there is no doubt on this,” he said, citing a November report by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency that suggested Iran was moving ahead with tests on weapons-related components.

Iran has tried to play down any links between the new U.S. sanctions — which have yet to take effect — and the nosedive of the Iranian rial. “For the time being, it has nothing to do with foreign policy,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.

But officials are clearly nervous. The semiofficial Mehr news agency said the Central Bank was planning on holding a meeting of fiscal experts Wednesday.

The latest sanctions signed by U.S. President Barack Obama include an amendment barring foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's Central Bank from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. The Obama administration, however, is looking to soften the impact of the measure, fearing they could lead to a spike in global crude oil prices or pressure key allies that import Iranian oil.

A Tehran-based economist, Gholamreza Kiamehr, said any economic pressures now have only “short-term psychological effects” after four rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006 and other measures by the U.S. and allies.

“The sanctions will not have a paralyzing effect on Iran because of Iran’s geopolitics, resources and access to the open seas,” he said.

Yet political leaders remain mindful that Iran’s strangled growth — coupled with high unemployment and inflation — is a potential flashpoint. Parliamentary elections scheduled for March could put even greater scrutiny on the state of Iran’s economy.

In Tehran, the daughter of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been convicted and sentenced to six months in prison on charges of making propaganda against the ruling system, according to the conservative mashreghnews.ir website.

The report said Tehran’s Revolutionary Court also banned Faezeh Hashemi from taking part in political, cultural and media activities for the next five years.

Her lawyer, Gholam Ali Riahi, has said the charges against her are related to interviews she gave to news websites.

Hashemi appeared at opposition protests after the disputed June 2009 presidential election and was briefly detained in February.

Associated Press writers Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo and Nasser Karimi in Tehran contributed to this report.