Shoe thrown at Iran president after historic call with Obama
By Mohammad Davari ,AFPTEHRAN -- A shoe was thrown at Iranian President Hasan Rouhani's motorcade Saturday as he arrived home to a mixed reception after his historic call with U.S. leader Barack Obama, an AFP correspondent reported.
September 29, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Iranian newspapers hailed the first contact with a U.S. president in more than three decades as the ending of a long taboo.
But his 15-minute conversation with the leader of a country long derided as the “Great Satan” was too much for some hard-liners.
Nearly 60 people gathered outside Tehran's Mehrabad Airport, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as his motorcade passed.
They were outnumbered by 200 to 300 supporters of the president chanting: “Thank you Rouhani,” who were separated from the protesters by a small contingent of police.
The shoe was thrown as Rouhani stood up through the sunroof of his car to acknowledge the crowd. It failed to hit its target.
There have been no diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington since radical students took hostages at the U.S. embassy in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.
Dubbed the “nest of spies” by the regime, the old embassy site has since been the scene of annual commemorations which have been the focal point for hard-line anti-U.S. sentiment.
The airport protest contrasted with the plaudits Rouhani received from the Iranian press for the historic telephone call.
Rouhani told reporters at the airport that it had been Obama's initiative to make the call.
“We were going to the airport, when I was informed that the White House had called the cellphone of our ambassador to the U.N.,” his office quoted him as saying.
“I was informed President Obama wanted to speak to me for a few minutes.”
Iranian newspapers crowed that Rouhani had wrong-footed the world's media by taking the U.S. president's call after coverage of his keenly-awaited visit to the United Nations in New York had focused on the lack of a face-to-face meeting.
“The world caught unawares,” crowed reformist daily Arman. “International media in shock over the telephone call.”
The Etemad newspaper carried a photomontage of Rouhani and Obama side by side. “Historic contact on way home,” read a banner headline taking up the whole front page.