Why did Rouhani pull out of Austria visit?

By Saeid Jafari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

The recent abrupt cancellation of a planned visit by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to Austria is raising a great deal of speculation. The two-day trip, which was scheduled to take place on March 30-31, was called off the last minute by the Iranian side. It was to follow a visit by Rouhani and his delegation to Belgium, which had already been cancelled due to the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels. But why was the visit to Vienna called off?

Rouhani’s decision to cancel the trip was announced on the evening of March 29, just hours before the president’s planned departure. The Iranian government announced that “the visit by Iran’s president to Austria will take place at a more appropriate time. This decision has been reached mutually to allow for better preparation.”

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Austrian President Heinz Fischer’s office said, “The visit for March 30-31 by President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation has been postponed by the Iranian side for security reasons.” The Austrian president himself also expressed regret that Rouhani had to cancel his trip and said every nation had to decide for itself about the safety and security of its head of government. Fischer added, however, that to his understanding there was no cause for security concerns. He said Austrian police had assured him that all necessary security measures had been put in place, just as they had been for previous visits by the presidents of Russia and China.

In Iran, one of the first official reactions to the cancellation of the trip came from Rouhani’s minister of health. In a note posted on his personal Telegram channel in early April, Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi reiterated that security concerns were the real cause for the cancellation, while criticizing media outlets that raised questions about the latter.

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