Ascheduled live television interview with Iranian President Hassan Rohani was delayed by more than an hour on February 5 after what the official IRNA news agency said was a block by the state broadcasting chief. The exact reason for the delay was not immediately clear. But Rohani's Twitter feed later placed the blame on Ezatollah Zarghami, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
In the live broadcast, Rohani mentioned the delay.
"Tonight, because of reasons that I don't want to explain, the interview [with the state television] was delayed and our people had to wait [to watch it]," he said.
Meanwhile, the hard-line Fars news agency later quoted an "informed source" in the presidential office as saying the delay was the result of a disagreement between the president and conservative Islamists who control state television -- a dispute focusing on who should conduct the interview.
The ISNA news agency, citing an unnamed source at the presidency, reported on February 6 that the delay was sparked by Zarghami's "opposition to two presenters picked for the interview.”
The Iranian president -- a self-described "moderate" -- reportedly had been insisting that a female journalist be allowed to ask questions.
In the end, a male and a female journalist were allowed to ask Rohani questions about the performance of his government.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani (left) during the interview
Full text of the interview (in Persian)
Rohani told the interviewers that a "new atmosphere" has been created in Iran's economy since a temporary nuclear agreement was reached with world powers in November and went into effect in January -- easing some economic sanctions in exchange for the scaling back of nuclear-enrichment activities.
"In the foreign policy arena, a big step has been taken," he said. "Of course, this step was under the shadow of the presence of the people, the sacrifice of the people, and their epic [struggle]. A new atmosphere was created. People did it. They opened a new window to the nations and governments."
Rohani also maintained that a new diplomatic mood surrounding Iran was apparent to him during his recent visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"The [aim] of the trip to Davos was to tell the world that a new atmosphere has been created in the economy," he said. "In fact, [there is] a renewed [dawn] in Iran's economy."
On foreign policy, Rohani said he thinks Tehran will expand its relations with Moscow and kabul.
"We are considering a long-term agreement with Afghanistan and also with Russia as one of our big neighbors," he saisd. "We've had detailed conversations over the phone or in person, with the trip of the foreign minister, with the many Russians officials who have traveled to Iran, and the many Iranian officials who have traveled to Russia. We will witness expanded relations with Russia in the future."
In apparent references to Syria and Lebanon -- as well as Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan -- Rohani also said ties with neighboring states and other countries in the region are a key part of his government’s foreign policy priorities.
With reporting by AFP, IRNA, and ISNA
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