London, 31 Mar – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has cancelled a trip to Austria planned for March 30-31. A statement from the Austrian President’s office stated the meeting had been postponed by the Iranian side for security reasons. A spokesperson for the Austrian Interior Ministry, Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said that there were “no concrete indications of any security threats”. The Iranian government confirmed the postponement of the meeting, a decision reached by “mutual agreement”.
An alternative explanation for the postponement emerged when Austria’s Die Presse newspaper reported that Iran had been trying to force Austrian authorities to ban an anti-Iranian regime protest due to take place on March 30.
The protest was organised by the Human Rights Centre for Victims of Fundamentalism to support several groups aiming to draw attention to the thousands of executions that have taken place during Rouhani’s presidency- despite his “moderate” credentials.
Groups involved in the protest welcomed the postponement of the trip but believe the right thing to do would be to call it off completely. Shahin Gobadi, a spokesperson for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), had this to say:
“Our planned demonstration could have had that effect. Another reason could be factional infighting in Iran. There was also the fact that Austria’s President had said in an interview before the trip that Tehran cannot expect sanctions to be lifted straight away.” (The Local)
Vienna would have been the third major European city visited by Rouhani this year. He visited Rome and Paris in January. The visit to Vienna was due to include meetings with the Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Werner Faymann in addition to an Austro-Iranian economic forum.