Iranian paper fears ‘trap’ for Rouhani at Mandela tribute

Burial service could bring president face to face with Obama, the ‘head of the Great Satan government,’ editorial warns

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An Iranian newspaper has warned the country’s President Hassan Rouhani not to attend the memorial service for South African hero Nelson Mandela, because it may be a trap to bring him in contact with US President Barack Obama.

An editorial titled “Satan lays a trap, this time in Johannesburg” in the Kayhan daily laid down the dangers to Rouhani of a chance meeting with the “head of the Great Satan government,” AFP reported on Sunday.

“Some domestic and foreign media outlets are using the memorial ceremony as a pretext to push Rouhani toward a meeting with the head of the Great Satan government,” according to the editorial board of the hardline paper.

Mandela, a former president of South Africa, died on Thursday at the age of 95. He is due to be buried in a state funeral next Sunday in his home country, with a massive memorial service on Tuesday.

Rouhani and Obama have not met face to face, although the two leaders spoke by telephone for 15 minutes in September when the Iranian leader attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Iran has not yet announced who will represent it at the service, which will be attended by heads of state and dignitaries from around the world.

Following the news of Mandela’s death last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted a message on his Twitter account:

“We in Iran join the people of South Africa in mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, who inspired humanity with his courage and compassion,” he wrote.

Rouhani began his presidency in August 2013 and has made it his policy to present a more moderate approach to Western nations than his predecessor did. If he does decide to attend the funeral and risk a meeting with Obama, Rouhani can take solace in the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the “Little Satan,” will be thousands of miles away.

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