Iran anger over US visa refusal for UN envoy Hamid Aboutalebi


The BBC's Chloe Bugelly: "The refusal to issue the visa has sparked anti-US protests in Tehran"

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Iran has insisted it will not replace its new envoy to the UN in New York and accused the US of acting illegally by refusing a visa to the diplomat.

A senior Iranian official said they would "pursue the matter via legal mechanisms" with the United Nations.

The US accuses Hamid Aboutalebi of links to the group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, an incident that soured ties between the countries.

Mr Aboutalebi says that he only acted as a translator for the group.

Congress passed a bill last week that would allow the US to refuse an ambassadorial selection if the candidate posed a security risk.

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif condemned the move by Congress.

An Anti-American crowd demonstrates outside of the US Embassy, 21 November 1979 The hostage crisis was part of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution

He characterised those in favour of the bill as "a group of radicals" and said the move would not influence Iran's policies.

Although the bill still requires the signature of the president before it can become law, Congress appears to have succeeded in getting Mr Aboutalebi barred.

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"Americans of a certain age will not forget their bitter anger at watching 52 countrymen paraded, bound and blindfolded, through the streets of Tehran, nor the endless anxiety felt while the American diplomats were held prisoner for 444 days" ”

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White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president "shared the intent of the bill", and would not issue a visa.

Mr Babaei said the White House decision was "in contravention of international law, the obligation of the host country and the inherent right of sovereign member states to designate their representatives to the United Nations".

Under international law, the US as the host nation for the UN is obliged to grant visas to states' representatives.

In the most high-profile similar case, the US refused a visa to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to speak at the UN in 1998. The UN condemned that decision.

The UN has not yet commented on Mr Aboutalebi's situation.

Mr Aboutalebi has previously served as Iran's ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia.

He has said said he was not part of the group that took over the US embassy, and was only later asked to translate for the students.

The 52 Americans were held for 444 days during the crisis.

The hostage crisis was part of the revolution that overthrew Iran's monarchy and installed the Islamic republic.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Americans of a certain age will indeed remember the hostage crisis.

    Iranians of all ages will know of how western powers interfered in the internal affairs of their country, of how governments were puppets or were overthrown.

    The foreign policy of Iran is of unacceptable. It is also what you may call blowback. We, the West, must lead by example by changing course in the hope that Iran will also.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Under the UN charter the host nation is obliged to issue a visa. If the candidate is accused of a crime then there must be some sort of evidence to back it up. I don't suppose the US will provide it. This is going to sour relations further & I think this issue is designed by the US to further isolate Iran at the UN. There is no way that either side will back down now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Iran states this contravenes international law. Let's allow that. However, the occupation of the US Embassy in Teheran is a more significant breach of international laws.

    The UN is international space and nations' embassies are the territory. A visa is needed to travel through other parts of the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Both US & Iran are jeopardising the recent thaw in relations between the two on nuclear disarmament after decades of standoff by making it a prestige issue. Either US should allow the Iran diplomat or Iran should send a non-controversial person to UN. I think Obama as President can still intervene and overrule the Congress decision. So too the grand Ayatollah consider a replacement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    The US offered to host the UN as place where adversaries could resolve conflicts thru diplomacy. The White House decision to reject a creditable diplomat based on political animosity is pathetic and unhelpful in the current nuclear negotiations.


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