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CNN anchor withdraws from interview with Iranian president over headscarf row

CNNChief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour was on the cusp of an interview with the president of Iran but opted to pull the plug after being told to don a headscarf, she said Thursday.

The interview was slated to come as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi joins an entourage of world leaders converging on the United Nations General Assembly and contends with deadly protests back home. Amanpour was adamant that she couldn't accommodate the "unprecedented and unexpected condition" the Iranian leader dropped on her at the last minute, refusing to don the cultural garb on U.S. soil.

TREASURY DEPARTMENT SANCTIONS IRAN’S 'MORALITY POLICE' AMID DEADLY PROTESTS

"40 minutes after the interview had been due to start, an aide came over. The president, he said, was suggesting I wear a headscarf, because it’s the holy months of Muharram and Safar. I politely declined," Amanpour recalled. "I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran."

"The aide made it clear that the interview would not happen if I did not wear a headscarf," she added. "And so we walked away. The interview didn’t happen. As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to speak with President Raisi."

Tehran has been besieged by sweeping protests over recent days following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly flouting the nation's stringent dress code for women. She died on Sept. 16.

Iranian officials claimed her death was the result of a heart attack, but experts have surmised her actual cause of death was a beating from Iran's Morality Police, the Associated Pressreported.

Christiane Amanpour.

So far, at least nine people have died during unrest in dozens of cities across Iran, according to the outlet's Thursday tally. The sprawling protests have been met with a forceful response from Tehran. Authorities have clashed with protesters and apprehended Niloufar Hamedi, a reporter who captured photos at a hospital following Amini's death, according to the report.

Additionally, there have been outages of WhatsApp and other methods of communication favored by protesters, prompting U.S. officials to mull the prospect of giving demonstrators internet access via satellite.

Many Iranian women have begun burning and tearing off their state-mandated headscarves in a sign of defiance against Tehran. Others have shouted "Death to the dictator" during demonstrations.

Protesters chant slogans during a protest in downtown Tehran, Iran.

The Treasury Department recently announced sanctions against Iran's Morality Police amid the uproar, and a chorus of Western-aligned nations has condemned Iran.

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Raisi refrained from discussing the unrest gripping his nation during his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. Instead, he tore into the West, particularly the U.S., and lamented the 2020 drone strike on Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani.

"The fate of other countries has shown America has pursued her own interests at the expense of other countries," Raisi said, vowing to pursue justice.