Sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program have pushed the country into recession, a global association of financial services said on Monday, December 10, Reuters reported. Crude oil exports have dropped sharply, the Iranian rial has plummeted and inflation has soared in 2012, the Washington-based Institute for International Finance said in its report on the Middle East and North Africa. GDP in 2012 is expected to shrink by 3.5 percent, from 1.2 percent positive growth in 2011, it added. Iranian officials at first sought to downplay the effect of sanctions, but in recent months have acknowledged their impact on the economy. The IIF report said that the economic conditions could have serious political and social implications as the country approaches mid-2013 presidential elections.