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Rouhani home with US 'gift' of silver griffin: reports

By The Rainbow


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday brought home a 2,700-year-old Persian artifact the US administration gave him as 'a special gift” to Iranians, media reports said.

'The Americans contacted us on Thursday and said ‘we have a gift for you’,' Rouhani told reporters upon arrival at the airport in Tehran, the ILNA news agency reported.

'They gave it back as a special gift to the Iranian nation.'

Rouhani was speaking of a 7th century BC silver Persian drinking cup in the shape of a winged Griffin, a legendary creature with the head of an eagle and body of a lion.

It is reported to be worth more than a million dollars.

After being looted from a cave in Iran, the cup was seized by US custom officials in 2003 when an arts dealer attempted to smuggle it into the country, according to a State Department tweet.

Mohammad Ali Najafi, head of Iran’s heritage organisation who accompanied Rouhani to New York, welcomed the news.

“We hope this will mark the beginning of the return of other artifacts,” he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Rouhani made history on Friday by speaking on the phone to US President Barack Obama in the first contact between Iranian and American leaders since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Iranians cheered President Hassan Rouhani on his return from New York on Saturday after his historic phone call with US President Barack Obama but a smaller number of hardliners shouted “Death to America” and threw eggs and a shoe at his official car leaving the airport in Tehran, Iranian media reported.

While an anticipated handshake between Rouhani and Obama at United Nations headquarters failed to materialise, they held a 15-minute call on Friday at the end of the moderate new Iranian president’s trip for the UN General Assembly.

Iranian media said hundreds of Rouhani supporters keen to see him make good on pledges of “constructive interaction” with the world to ease Iran’s international isolation and get punitive sanctions lifted turned up to hail his UN visit.

But about 100 conservative hardliners also appeared and, shouting the “Death to America” slogan common since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, pelted his official car with eggs and stones in protest at Rouhani’s diplomatic opening towards Washington, according to witness reports posted on Twitter.

The semi-official Mehr news agency ran pictures of groups of protesters holding up a ‘Death to America’ placard and banging the sides of Rouhani’s limousine as it began to depart the airport. Mehr said one protester threw his shoes at the car, a gesture of deep insult in the Islamic faith.

There has been little reaction so far from Iran’s political leaders but one senior parliamentarian tentatively welcomed Rouhani’s conversation with Obama as a sign of the Islamic Republic’s “position of authority”.

“This (phone call) shows that Iran’s place in the world is of critical importance. That the president of America insists on a telephone call is a sign of sincerity,” Mehr quoted the head of parliament’s committee for national security and foreign affairs, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, as saying on Saturday (Agency reports).