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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 13:13 GMT
Iran 'offers shares to the poor'
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President Ahmadinejad has vowed to improve the lot of the poor
The Iranian government has approved plans to offer share options to low-income families, the country's official news agency IRNA has reported.

Under the scheme, millions of Iranian families could have the chance to buy shares in state-owned companies.

Iran's finance ministry has been given two months to identify families who could benefit from the scheme, which was agreed by ministers on Wednesday.

Investors would then have 20 years to pay for the share options.

Poverty concerns

The move would be in line with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election vow to improve the condition of Iran's poor.

Despite huge oil wealth, the country suffers from high unemployment and an increasing gap between rich and poor.

According to official data, 15% of Iranians live below the poverty line, although unofficial estimates suggest that figure is much closer to 40%.

The share option plans are similar to a scheme put forward by the head of the Tehran Stock Exchange in June.

Under those proposals, about 14 million families would be offered the chance to buy a selection of shares worth about 100m rials ($11,044; 6,213).

Iran's stock market has struggled recently amid uncertainty over the new president's economic plans and fears that the country could face UN sanctions over its nuclear programme.

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