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Protests greet returning Rouhani

Source BBC News@

Hassan Rouhani, 27 SeptMr Rouhani said in New York that Iran was keen to reach a deal on its nuclear programme soon

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been met by hardline protesters chanting "Death to America" on his return from the UN forum in New York.

During his trip, President Rouhani had suggested a shift in tone on Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

This culminated in a phone call with US President Barack Obama - the first such top-level conversation in 30 years.

Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport, with supporters hailing the trip and opponents throwing shoes.

'US initiative'

An Agence France-Presse journalist said some 200-300 supporters gathered outside the airport to thank Mr Rouhani for his efforts.

But opposite them were about 60 people shouting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".

Mr Rouhani stood and raised his hand to the crowds, AFP said.

US President Barack Obama: "The test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions"

A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president's convoy.

The Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), said: "A crowd of young people and students gathered at Mehrabad airport to show support for the president's remarks and his stance during the trip to New York."

It said Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and a number of cabinet members also welcomed the president.

Mr Rouhani, quoted by the Fars news agency, said it was the US that had initiated the presidential phone call.

"Yesterday, as we were getting ready to head to the airport, the White House called and expressed willingness to set up a phone call between the American president and me," Fars quoted Mr Rouhani as saying upon arrival in Tehran.

"On our way a call was made to our ambassador's cell phone. The conversation mostly focused on the nuclear issue," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Obama earlier spoke of a "unique opportunity" to make progress with Iran's new leadership.

Mr Rouhani had indicated Iran was keen to reach a deal soon on the nuclear issue.

He also asserted that Iran did not seek a nuclear bomb, as Western powers have long suspected.

Mr Rouhani said initial discussions had taken place in an environment that was "quite different" from the past.

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