Iran's Rouhani Scraps Austria Trip as Nations Differ on Reasons

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  • Austria says Iranian leader cited security concerns for move
  • Austrian newspaper cites Iranian call for ban on protests

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani unexpectedly canceled a state visit to Austria this week citing security reasons, according to an official Austrian government statement. Iran said the decision was reached mutually to allow for better preparation.

Rouhani had been scheduled to meet Austrian President Heinz Fischer and other Austrian leaders on Wednesday and Thursday in only his second visit as president to Europe, after he traveled to Rome and Paris in January. Fischer said he regretted the cancellation.

The Vienna-based Die Presse newspaper said Iran had demanded that Austria prevent planned demonstrations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program during Rouhani’s visit. The request, last raised on Tuesday morning, was rejected by Austria, it said without saying from where it got the information.

Neither country publicly linked the decision not to travel to possible protests.

“Every nation has to decide for itself about the safety and security of its head of state,” Fischer said in a statement. “The quality of the relations with Iran won’t be touched by this delay and the cooperation in the realm of politics, business, culture and science will be continued in a comprehensive manner.”

Austria’s Interior Ministry had “no concrete signs of a security threat” and the preparation for Rouhani’s visit had been “completely ordinary and routine,” spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told the Austrian Press Agency.

Speaking to reporters after a weekly government meeting on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said that Rouhani’s decision to also cancel a trip to Iraq “shows in my view that there are reasons that didn’t have to do directly with the preparations in Austria.”

In Iran, the official state news agency IRNA said the cancellation was “based on mutual agreement in order to allow better planning and coordination from both sides.”

The postponement caught Iranian media by surprise as most had prepared special sections detailing trade links between the two nations. Iran is seeking overseas investment after last year’s nuclear deal led to the lifting of international sanctions on trade and finance.

Neither country provided a new date for the visit.