TEHRAN – A shoe was thrown at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s motorcade as he arrived home to a mixed reception after his historic call with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Newspapers hailed the first contact with a U.S. president in more than three decades as the ending of a long taboo. The Etemad carried a front-page photomontage of Rouhani and Obama side by side, with a banner headline reading, “Historic contact on way home.”
But Rouhani’s 15-minute conversation with the leader of a country long derided as the “Great Satan” was too much for some hard-liners. Nearly 60 gathered outside Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Saturday, 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 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.
Rouhani told reporters at the airport the call had been Obama’s initiative. “I was informed President Obama wanted to speak to me for a few minutes,” his office quoted him as saying.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet Obama on Monday. On Sunday, he said he would “tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and charm offensive of Iran.”
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, widely seen as Rouhani’s mentor, said the Iranian president had pulled off a diplomatic coup by speaking to — but not meeting — Obama.