Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a joint press conference with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev after their meeting at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
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Eight months after taking office, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has suffered his first major political defeat, with the public overwhelmingly brushing aside appeals to forgo direct government aid.The 455,000-rial ($14) monthly handout scheme, initiated in December 2010 by Rouhani's predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is part of broader economic reforms aimed at overhauling the country's massive subsidy system. The Rouhani administration for weeks ran an aggressive media campaign seeking to persuade the most affluent of Iran's 77-million population, and some of the middle class, to waive the cash payments.On Wednesday it was announced that 73 million people -- 95 percent -- had asked to receive the money, amounting to a near $1-billion monthly bill.The government's attempt to convince people to refuse direct aid appeared to overlook this audience, employing only state media and targeting its viewers, who generally belong to the lower-income classes who most need the cash handouts.
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