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(Bloomberg) -- A walk down the streets of Geneva with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is all it took to get Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in trouble back at home.
Zarif met Kerry in the Swiss city on Jan. 14 as the two sides seek to meet a March 1 deadline to agree on an outline of an accord to end a standoff between Iran and world powers over Iran’s nuclear program. They held six hours of talks over two sessions and took part of their exchange outdoors strolling on Geneva’s sidewalks.
The picture of the two, shared on social media websites, prompted opponents of an Iranian rapprochement with global powers to accuse Zarif of ignoring the Islamic Republic’s view that blames the U.S. for Middle East turmoil. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of the hardline newspaper Kayhan, described the walk as “beyond inappropriate.”
Iran’s “official and rational view is to see the U.S. as a blood spilling enemy and a looter,” Shariatmadari, who is appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote. “By walking alongside John Kerry and outside the site of negotiations, Mr. Zarif is showing that he disagrees with the Islamic Republic’s official view.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013 on pledges to ease economic sanctions and end the country’s isolation, which had deepened under his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, a former top nuclear negotiator himself, has also been attacked for gestures that included a phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama in September, 2013.
Zarif was also criticized for meeting Kerry on Jan. 16 in Paris. The top U.S. diplomat was in the French capital in show of support after the deadly attack on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine by extremists following the publication of cartoons seen as lampooning Prophet Muhammad. Iran condemned the attack, while calling the magazine’s move to reprint the cartoons “provocative.”
“It seems Mr. Zarif doesn’t know what a great nation and people he is representing,” Commander of Iran’s Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naghdi was as cited as saying in a report published yesterday by the Fars news agency. Zarif should “apologize to the people for his undesirable actions.”
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