Iranian protesters threw shoes, eggs and stones on Saturday at the car of President Hasan Rouhani, back from a five-day trip to New York to speak at the UN General Assembly.
The president got a mixed reception at the airport, as several dozen hardline Islamists chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as his motorcade drew away. Others attempted to obstruct the road by praying on the pavement, the New York Times reported.
New York Times reporter Thomas Erdbrink, who is based in Tehran, described the airport scene as chaotic, with one person almost being run over by the convoy.
The hardline protesters were outnumbered by several hundred supporters of the president who shouted: “Thank you Rouhani,” AFP reported Saturday.
Fighting during Rouhani homecoming illustrates his troubles ahead as he pushes forward for Iran US ties
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) September 28, 2013
A police contingent separated the rival demonstrators.
Before leaving New York on Friday, Rouhani chatted with US President Barack Obama by telephone, marking the first direct contact between American and Iranian leaders in 30 years.
The phone call capped a week of seismic alterations in the relationship, revolving around Rouhani’s participation in the annual UN meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, US and European diplomats had hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in Thursday’s first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.
The last direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries was in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-US shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama said the long break “underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.”