Rowhani: Iran didn’t ask for nude statue cover-up

The Iranian president said that his side had not asked the Italian side to cover up the museum relics

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Iranian President Hassan Rowhani says Iran didn’t make any specific requests for Rome museum officials to cover up naked statues but says he nevertheless appreciated the welcome he received.

Rowhani laughed Wednesday when asked at the end of a three-day visit to Italy about the statue cover-up, which made headlines in Italy and around the world. Some Italian politicians decried the “cultural submission” implied in Italy’s gesture.

The Iranian president said Iran made no specific request for the cover-up, saying there were “no contacts about this” from his side.

But he added: “I know that Italians are a very hospitable people, a people who try to do the most to put their guests at ease and I thank you for this.”

Ahead of a joint news conference Monday with Premier Matteo Renzi, wooden panels were erected around some Roman-era statues in Rome’s Capitoline Museums.

The Iranian president also told reporters on Wednesday that freedom of expression doesn’t extend to insulting other people’s faith.

Rowhani said that he and Pope Francis discussed the issue during their audience at the Vatican on Tuesday.

Francis was once asked about the extremist attacks on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. He suggested that a violent reaction could be expected when someone’s faith is insulted, saying that anyone who insults his mother can expect to be punched.

Rowhani concurred, saying “freedom of expression doesn’t mean that people can do what they want.”

He made the comments hours before arriving in Paris on the next leg of his European trip.

(With the Associated Press)

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