Rouhani says leak sought to sow 'discord' amid Iran nuclear talks
The controversial comments by top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, in which he said the military was too influential in diplomacy, were leaked as Iran and world powers are engaged in talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear accord.
The talks, in Vienna, seek to return the United States to the agreement -- which Washington abandoned under former president Donald Trump -- and persuade Tehran to comply with nuclear obligations it retreated from in retaliation.
"Stealing a document, a tape, it is something that has to be investigated," President Rouhani told a cabinet meeting in televised remarks.
"Why (was it leaked) at this time? In my opinion, this tape ... could have been published a week ago as well."
"We can only lift sanctions through unity".
Not government views
The 2015 accord was hammered out during Rouhani's first term following lengthy negotiations led by Zarif.
Zarif has been under fire from conservatives since the three-hour audio tape was published on Sunday.
Comments he made about Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm who was killed in a US air strike last year, hit a particular nerve.
"In the Islamic republic the military field rules," Zarif said in the audiotape, quoted by the New York Times. "I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy."
"The (military) field and diplomacy are not two fields against each other," Rouhani said.
Some of the views in the recording "are not the views of the government or the president. Any minister or official might have some views" of their own, the president said.
"If someone thinks that it is (a choice between) the (military) field or diplomacy, foreign policy or defensive policy, or that the (military) field must succeed or the negotiations -- this is not an accurate thing to say," the president said.
"Two hands ultimately come together and do one thing," he said, emphasising that there is a "system and a framework" of discussing issues in both fields in Iran's Supreme National Security Council.