By Antoine Blua, RFE/RL
Iranian officials are pulling out all the stops for Hassan Rohani's presidential inauguration.
Invitations were reportedly sent to leaders across the globe to travel to Tehran for the August 4 swearing-in ceremony. Officials have highlighted the expected presence of 200 journalists, including 50 representing media outlets from 16 foreign countries.
But with just days to go, the VIP guest list is noticeably thin, with even some of Iran's closest allies opting not to send their heads of state.
Iranian officials say that at least 40 countries responded positively to the invitation, with 10 presidents and three prime ministers among those making the trip.
Central Asian states will be well represented, with four of the region's five presidents -- from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan -- expected to travel to Tehran for Rohani's big day.
Neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan will send their heads of state, as will Africa's Togo and Guinea-Bissau. The list also includes the president of Armenia as well as the president of key partner Lebanon, and the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson.
But among those not attending will be the heads of state of some of Iran's closest allies, including Russia and Syria.
Syria, whose President Bashar al-Assad is dealing with a civil war, has said it will send its prime minister, Wael Nader Al-Halqi.
President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit Iran in the coming weeks, but will not attend the inauguration ceremony. Representing Russia will be State Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin or possibly Russia's ambassador to Iran.
Iranian allies Belarus, Venezuela, and Bolivia have yet to announce whom they will send.
The obvious no-shows will be the United States and Israel, who were not invited. But the Europeans appear to be shunning the ceremony, with Britain's Foreign Office saying that the agreed European Union position is that the event would only be attended by diplomats based in Iran.
Media reports have speculated that former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, could be in attendance.
Within Iran itself, there is some controversy among parliamentarians about who should be invited.
Some lawmakers have questioned whether former reformist President Mohammad Khatami should be present, while others have said all former presidents should attend.
Iranian inaugurations take place within the parliament and are usually attended by officials and resident foreign diplomats. They are not open to the public.
Copyright (c) 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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