According to Britain's "Daily Mail,"
while Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was courting controversy at the United Nations
last week, members of his large entourage were scouring the city for bargain clothes, shoes, and toiletries.
A number of the 140 officials who accompanied the Iranian leader to New York were said to be spending their free time at shops such as Costco and Walgreens shopping for cheap clothes, shoes, shampoo, soap, and vitamins.
The daily quoted
a "man assigned to work with the Iranians" as saying: "Since they are under sanctions, they can’t get this stuff. Their money is weak compared to the dollar."
Iran has faced increasingly tough sanctions
over its failure to cooperate with the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to confirm its claims that its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes, while the value of its currency, the rial, has plummeted against the dollar
. This makes imported goods especially expensive and hard to come by
The source added that one Iranian bought a $40 pair of children's shoes at the Payless store on Fifth Avenue but the purchase nearly wiped out his spending money for the trip.
At a Harlem Costco, they bought an assortment of wholesale shampoos before heading to a drugstore where they purchased more than a dozen bottles of vitamins and Tylenol.
While his staff hunted for bargains, the President booked two full floors at the posh hotel where suites cost up to $1,600 a night and had three personal chefs at his beck and call.
The cooks brought in their own food to cook for Ahmadinejad and his staff -- who dine separately on the second floor.
As the Israeli daily "Haaretz
" reports, the additional Western-led sanctions recently imposed on Iran are having a significant impact and, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry report, have "caused far greater damage to the Iranian economy than was previously believed and have sparked additional domestic criticism of the regime."
Speaking at the UN last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for renewed pressure on Iran
to prevent it from acquiring enough highly enriched uranium to produce nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu pointed to what he called Iran's history of sponsoring attacks and providing aid to terrorist groups, the Iranian government's denial of the Holocaust, and calls to destroy Israel. "Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons," he said, "just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons."