The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards
said Monday that President Hassan Rohani
should have refused to take last week's historic telephone call from US counterpart Barack Obama.
It was the first public criticism by a senior Iranian official of Friday's landmark first contact between leaders of the two countries since the rupture of diplomatic relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"The president took a firm and appropriate position during his stay" in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, General Mohammad Ali Jafari
said in an interview with the Tasnimnews.com website. "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 United States."
Revolutionary Guards (Photo: EPA)
The public criticism came despite appeals earlier this month by both Rohani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the Guards, who have long seen themselves as guardians of the values of the revolution, to steer clear of politics.
Jafari said that Washington should respond to the good will shown by Rohani in New York by "lifting all sanctions against the Iranian nation, releasing Iranian assets frozen in the United States, ending its hostility towards Iran
and accepting Iran's nuclear program."
The commander of the Guards air wing General Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh told the corps' own sepahnews.com website that "US hostility can't be forgotten with a phone call and a smile."
On September 17, Khamenei said it was "unnecessary" for the Guards to get involved in politics and the previous day, Rohani called on the Guards to "stand above political tendencies."
Rohani's contact with Obama was broadly welcomed in the Iranian press as well as abroad, but a small group of hardline Islamists protested outside Tehran's Mehrabad airport on his return. A shoe was thrown, as the protesters chanted: "Death to America," a slogan that was long a ritual refrain at official rallies.
The Revolutionary Guard is an influential body who holds sway in the army as much as in politics. A number of Iran's former leaders served as commanding officers in the forces - among them former-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
and head of the Iran's top nuclear envoy its Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, who served as the organizations head in the 80s.
Earlier Monday it was reported that Iran's president is asking aviation authorities to study the possibility of resuming direct flights between Iran
and the United States for the first time in more than three decades.
Hassan Rohani's request reflects Iranian efforts to possibly build on the groundbreaking exchanges with Washington that included a telephone chat last week between the new Iranian president and President Barack Obama.
Iran's immediate goal is to resume talks over its nuclear program to seek easing of Western sanctions. But Tehran also appears willing to explore expanded contacts.
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