Beyond having to deal with six world powers making demands on his country’s nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has another pressing problem: back pains so intense he’s had to use a wheelchair.
Zarif heads the Iranian delegation at key talks this week with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
He apparently wasn’t keen on sharing his ailment with the public. Instead of leaving his posh Geneva hotel by the main exit, he was wheeled out of the service entrance and into a waiting van Tuesday after complaining of intense pains.
European Union spokesman Michael Mann confirmed that Zarif had been having back pains, but said it didn’t stop him from attending a “cordial” dinner Monday with Catherine Ashton, the EU diplomat convening the talks.
Zarif said last week that domestic political battles over Iran’s outreach to the US had become so tense that they brought on back pain and spasms. He said on his Facebook page that he cancelled appointments and went to hospital for a check-up late last Tuesday.
The image of the US-educated Zarif being forced to seek medical attention because of stress underscored the high-level tensions inside Iran’s leadership after the historic exchanges last month at the United Nations, including President Barack Obama’s phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. The call angered hard-liners.
Those hard-liners, including commanders in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, have said Rouhani went too far in reaching out to Washington. The Guard chief commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, had praised Rouhani but called the phone call a “tactical mistake.”