Iran’s president to visit Europe in historic trip, amid criticism at home

Rowhani’s office said that he would also meet Pope Francis while in Italy

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Iranian President Hassan Rowhani is to begin a visit to Italy and France on Saturday, becoming the first leader of the Islamic Republic to travel to Europe for a decade.

State media agency IRNA said that the president would engage in official talks in Italy before he travels on to France on November 16-17. Rowhani’s office said that he would also meet Pope Francis while in Italy.

On the same day of the report, Iran’s judiciary chief slammed Rowhani for critical comments that appeared to be aimed at both some state media outlets and the judiciary.

The talks follow the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers back in January.

Rowhani said in a speech to representatives from news outlets on Monday that the “you learn from some publications who will be arrested tomorrow, what is going to be closed down tomorrow, which individual’s reputation should be damaged,” he said.

“The government must be criticized, the judiciary must be criticized, the parliament must be criticized,” Rowhani said.

“But criticizing does not mean... smearing, insulting or lying.”

In response, Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, hit back at Rowhani.

“The president made several comments, notably that justice must be a refuge for society, and that if the salt becomes rotten, the task becomes difficult,” said Larijani.

“One wonders what he means by that. Could the response be that if the government is rotten and if the president is corrupted that the task becomes difficult?” ISNA, another new agnency, quoted Larijani as saying.

“If the meaning is that justice is corrupt this is libelous, if not it is still an insult.”

Clear warning

It comes days after the arrest of four journalists by intelligence officers in the elite Revolutionary Guard who accused them of being “linked to hostile Western governments who were working in the country’s media and social networks.”

Larijani charged that “some media disrupt the public order... it is not acceptable that some newspapers receive money and work for foreigners against national security.”

He also issued a clear warning ahead of February parliamentary elections in which Rowhani hopes to get a majority of moderates and reformers elected to the body currently dominated by conservatives.

Reformist and moderate parties have said they will put forward so many candidates that the Guardians Council will not dare reject all of them.

The conservative-controlled Council has the power to reject candidates it sees as unsuitable.

“The Guardians Council will reject suspicious candidates, be there two thousand of them or ten thousand,” Larijani said.

(With AFP)