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Covid Row As Iran Hardliners Blast Rouhani For Cancelling Meeting

Maryan Sinaee

Hardliners blasted President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday [October 6] after he cancelled a scheduled meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf) and Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi after Ghalibaf had been in contact with coronavirus patients on Monday.

“The President has cancelled the meeting of the heads of the three powers of the government which was to be held in the Parliament tomorrow [Tuesday],” parliamentarian Mohsen Dehnavi tweeted on Monday. “His only concern is his own health amid all these economic problems and challenging statistics and when people need the head of the administration to show initiative…Is this Washington’s fault too?"

On Monday Ghalibaf paid an “unannounced visit,” accompanied by a reporter from state-run television and other journalists, to Tehran’s Imam Khomeini hospital where he met Covid19 patients in intensive care.

Ahmad Amirabadi-Farahani, a hardline member of the parliament’s presidium, called the cancellation, which he said had been announced by Rouhani’s Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi, “shameful.” Amirabadi-Farahani claimed Ghalibaf had observed required protocols during his hospital visit.

Zahra Sheikhi, a pro-Ghalibaf lawmaker from Isfahan and a member of the parliamentary health commission,  joined the fray on Twitter. “Ghalibaf is in the field, with no ado, to listen to the problems of the medical staff and investigate the situation of Covid patients while the other one [Rouhani] tries to cancel the meeting of the heads of [the three branches of] government under the pretext of abiding by health protocols.”

News of the meeting’s cancellation was first reported by the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News Agency on Monday and then apparently confirmed by the Communications and Information Deputy of the president’s office, Alireza Moezzi. “Presence [of the speaker] in the hospital ward for seriously ill, and taking reporters and cameras along, is not standing by people. It’s undermining people’s health,” Moezzi tweeted on Monday evening.

“The protocols are meant to prevent disruption in the management of the country at a time of crisis as well as sending wrong messages to the society and normalization of gatherings [despite the pandemic],” Moezzi wrote, insisting that the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce had set clear protocols for “high-ranking officials.”

The cancelled meeting would have been the president’s second with Ghalibaf and Reesi since March. The first meeting was hosted by Rouhani at the presidential office on September 13 to discuss and coordinate economic measures including those designed to repatriate foreign currency held by exporters and combat inflation.

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