Iran leader gets cheers, thrown shoes after Obama call

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came home Saturday to cheers and opposing chants, and even a thrown shoe, for his historic phone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama after attending the annual UN General Assembly.

Hassan Rouhani's historic U.S. outreach meets praise, some anger

President Hassan Rouhani waves to supporters as his motorcade leaves Tehran's Mehrabad Airport upon his arrival from New York. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty)

Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport Saturday as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani returned home from attending the UN General Assembly in New York, with supporters hailing the trip and at least one opponent throwing shoes at the presidential motorcade.

Rouhani was met by protesters chanting "Death to America," in response to his historic, 15-minute phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama, the first top-level conversation of its kind in 30 years, held just before the Iranian leader left for the airport Friday.

Opponents to the breakthrough conversation are angry at the prospect of a detente between Tehran and Washington, which they see as contrary to the principles of the Islamic Revolution.

Protesters pelted the presidential motorcade with eggs and tried to block it, according to media reports.

The semi-official Mehr news agency reported at least one demonstrator hurled his shoes in Rouhani's direction, a gesture considered an insult in the Arab world.

When Rouhani was elected in June, he said he wanted to reach a deal over the nuclear issue in three to six months.

He has also asserted that Iran does not seek to create a nuclear bomb, as Western powers have long suspected.

On his return to Tehran, Rouhani said the conversation with Obama centred on nuclear issues.

"I said in the telephone conversation that the nuclear program is not only a right of the Iranian nation and a matter of [technical] development, but also, and more importantly, it is a matter of national pride for the Iranian people. [Obama] approved the right of the Iranian people to nuclear energy."

Possibly standing in Rouhani's way of his overtures to the U.S. is an array of hardliners, led by the hugely powerful Revolutionary Guard.

However, Rouhani supporters greeted him with placards thanking him for seeking peace instead of confrontation. One banner read:  "Yes to peace, no to war."

With files from The Associated Press


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