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Iran: Fall in oil prices is "treachery"

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that the sharp fall in global oil prices is the result of "treachery," in an apparent reference to regional rival Saudi Arabia, which opposed production cuts.

Oil prices have plunged by more than 40 percent since June to less than $70 a barrel, placing severe strain on Iran's economy, which is already hobbled by international sanctions imposed over its nuclear program. An OPEC meeting last month failed to reach agreement on production curbs, mainly because of Saudi opposition.

Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that the fall in prices is at least partly "politically motivated," the result of a "conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world."

"Iran and people of the region will not forget such conspiracies, or in other words, treachery against the interests of the Muslim world," he said.

OPEC controls about 40 percent of the world oil market and Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter, produces nearly 10 million barrels a day -- a third of the OPEC total. Riyadh has thus far refused to go along with Iran, Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela, all of which want to scale back production to drive prices up.

The fall in prices has mainly been attributed to a U.S. oil boom and lower world demand because of weakened economies. Saudi Arabia is opposed to cutting production because it fears its market share could erode.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are longtime rivals who have been fiercely divided over the civil war in Syria, where Shiite Iran supports President Bashar Assad while Saudi Arabia backs the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to topple him.