DUBAI: Iran imposed travel bans on 15 people for alleged involvement in a leaked audio recording in which the foreign minister complained about the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Iranian diplomacy, a semi-official news agency said on Thursday.
In the leaked interview, aired by the London-based Iran International Persian-language satellite news channel late on Sunday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he had “zero” influence over Iran’s foreign policy.
“According to a judiciary source, 15 people involved in the interview have been banned from leaving Iran,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
The recording, shedding a rare light on ties between the government and the elite IRGC, has angered hard-liners in Iran, who called the leak “an espionage act.” Some lawmakers have called for Zarif’s resignation.
President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday replaced the head of the state-run think tank that was in charge of conducting the interview. Authorities have said the recording was part of a wider project with government officials and was produced for state records rather than for publication.
“Hessameddin Ashena, head of the Strategic Studies Center, had resigned ... President Rouhani has appointed the Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei to replace him,” state news agency IRNA reported.
Ashena, who Iranian media said was present during the seven-hour interview with Zarif, is also an adviser to the president.
Ordering an inquiry into the recording’s release, Rouhani said on Wednesday the leak was intended to disrupt talks between Tehran and six powers in Vienna aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal that Washington abandoned three years ago.