Shoes, eggs hurled at Iran leader upon arrival in Tehran

Barack ObamaUS President Barack Obama during the historic phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, in the White House on Friday. The call ended on a polite note, according to Rouhani’s Twitter account. REUTERS

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.

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