A scheduled television address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was aired nearly an hour late on Wednesday after what the official IRNA news agency said was a block by the state broadcasting chief.
No explanation was given for the unexpected disruption, but Rouhani’s twitter feed pointed the finger at Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) chief Ezatollah Zarghami.
“Head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Zarghami, prevented live discussion w/ people on IRIB1 which was scheduled for an hour ago,” Rouhani’s feed said. Minutes later, the live broadcast finally went ahead.
The ISNA news agency, citing an unnamed source at the presidency, said the delay was sparked by Zarghami’s “opposition to two presenters picked for the interview,” which ended up being a general question-and-answer session on the government’s performance.
Appointed directly by Iran’s ultimate decision-maker and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Zarghami is considered a hardliner.
Rouhani’s interview was held a day after the president lashed out at critics of the landmark preliminary nuclear deal Iran struck in November with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany. The deal requires Iran to scale back its nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief.
That six-month accord, which took effect January 20, is aimed at buying time for a comprehensive agreement that could see sanctions lifted on the oil and gas-rich country.
Rouhani on television did not touch on any controversial issues. He called for unity as his administration continues negotiations with the P5+1.
“We are witnessing that the unfair chains crippling our economic movement are breaking today,” he said.
“This has made the enemy very angry … (including) hardliners in the US as well as the Zionist regime,” said Rouhani, while questioning domestic critics for seeking a zero-sum victory in the negotiations.
The self-proclaimed moderate president took office in August with a promise to constructively engage the world and resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear drive that the West believes could mask military objectives.
With backing from Khamenei, Rouhani has embarked on an effort to try to remove harsh international sanctions that have more than halved Iran’s vital oil exports and contributed to runaway inflation.
Rouhani also took the time Wednesday to apologise for a poor implementation of a food stamps handout scheme for low-income families.
Critics say the programme has forced people to stand in long queues in cold weather, harming the image and pride of the Islamic republic, and local media reported that an elderly man had died while waiting in the western Kermanshah province.