The majority of Iranians want to suspend the country's nuclear programme in return for a lifting of western sanctions according to a state television poll which runs counter to claims of universal support by Iran's leaders.
The survey, launched by the state broadcaster, IRIB, appeared designed to demonstrate a united front in the face of a new EU boycott of Iranian oil that came into effect last Sunday.
It asked viewers to express their preferred response online to the embargo, which Iran has greeted by staging a new series of war games and missile tests.
But the gambit turned into a spectacular own goal after two days of voting when IRIB's news channel screened results showing 63% of respondents in favour of suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for the gradual easing of sanctions.
TV bosses quickly stopped the poll and replaced it with one seeking viewers' opinions on an Iranian parliament proposal to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically vital waterway in the Persian Gulf that is the passageway for about one-fifth of the world's oil supplies.
But that too appeared to backfire when 89% of respondents opposed closing the strait. It was subsequently replaced by another survey about the popular Iranian football club, Persepolis.
It is not clear how many people participated and if all of them lived in Iran.
However, that the fiasco had touched a raw nerve become clear when IRIB claimed in a report that the results had been hacked by the BBC, an accusation the corporation denies.
The Iranian broadcaster insisted the true figure supporting uranium enrichment suspension was only 24% while the rest backed retaliatory measures. The original results showed only 20% supporting retaliation and 17% wanting a continuation of the current policy of "resistance" to sanctions.
"This survey shows that, while the Iranian people might want nuclear energy, they don't want it at the price the government is forcing them to pay through its negotiating strategy," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born commentator with the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company. "Their opinion is not factored into the government's negotiating strategy and this poll shows they are not happy with it."
The EU sanctions, coupled with a new US embargo punishing nations that continue to buy Iranian crude, threaten to drastically slash Tehran's oil revenues, on which Iran's economy depends. It is the latest in a series of punitive measures aimed at curbing a nuclear programme which the west suspect is a front for building an atom bomb. Iran says its goals are peaceful.----
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