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'Rouhani should not have taken Obama call'

By Agence France-Presse in Teheran | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-01 08:09

The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards has said President Hassan Rouhani should have refused to take last week's purported telephone call from his US counterpart Barack Obama.

The public criticism came on Monday and was the first by a senior Iranian official of Friday's historic first contact between leaders of Iran and the US since the rupture of diplomatic relations after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"The president (Rouhani) took a firm and appropriate position during his stay" in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, General Mohammad Ali Jafari told

"But just as he refused to meet Obama, he should also have refused to speak with him on the telephone and should have waited for concrete action by the US."

The government can make "tactical errors" but these can be "repaired", Jafari said. "If we see errors being made by officials, the revolutionary forces will issue the necessary warnings," he added.

The public criticism came despite appeals earlier this month both by Rouhani and supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Guards, who have long seen themselves as guardians of the values of the revolution, to steer clear of politics.

Jafari said Washington should respond to the goodwill shown by Rouhani in New York by "lifting all sanctions against the Iranian nation, releasing Iranian assets frozen in the US, ending its hostility toward Iran and accepting Iran's nuclear program".

The commander of the Guards air wing General Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh told the corps' own website that "US hostility can't be forgotten with a phone call and a smile".

On Sept 17, Khamenei said it was "unnecessary" for the Guards to get involved in politics.

A day earlier, Rouhani had called on the Guards to "stand above political tendencies".

Rouhani's contact with Obama was broadly welcomed in the Iranian press as well as abroad, but a small group of hard-line Islamists protested outside Teheran's Mehrabad airport on his return.

A protestor even threw a shoe at Rouhani's motorcade as other protestors shouted: "Death to America", a slogan that was long a ritual refrain at official rallies.

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