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.

Start Quote

"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" ”

End Quote Washington Times

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 448.

    You can chummy up with Iran after we're all dead and gone. none of us who remember will change our minds.

    Well thank you for your permission, in your words, the world could be friends once you aren't around, good bye soon I hope.

    You are especially disappointing, you've been around long enough yet you have chosen to bury your head in the sand rather than be more objective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    I'm one of those Americans of a certain age. I will never change my opinion. I can see, from the voting of these posts, that I'm in the minority. That doesn't bother me at all. Americans who remember are against giving diplomatic immunity to any member of that group. You can chummy up with Iran after we're all dead and gone. Until then, none of us who remember will ever change our minds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Iranians violated one of the worst foreign diplomatic incidents when they invaded the US Embassy (embassies are the territory of the foreign government) in Tehran and held the staff hostage for over a year. Now, they want to cry about their UN Ambassador not being allowed to enter the US, who had a part in it? America has the moral high ground on this case. A slap in the face from Iran

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    420 Otto

    "Good idea...and leave behind the 30% of the UN Budget the Us pays while you're at it"

    I wonder how much the city of New York makes out of having the UN there? All the money the staff must spend in restaurants, services, accommodation, employment etc must run into millions.

    No doubt the US is more than keen to keep them in their own backyard

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    @435 ottodog
    Hostage taking seems to be an Iranian specialty.

    They must have watched too many movies about the Great General Custer, oh no, Custer only took women and children as hostages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    441. Not true - the US has no control over UN Ambassador's picked by UN member states, nor should it as the US is just the UN host country. The issue here is that Iran has picked an Ambassador that was involved with the illegal hostage taking of US diplomats and is therefore not eligible for a US visa, i.e. he should never be allowed into the US!

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    427 Flange

    "Dumb as it may appear a lot of Americans live in fear"

    What do they expect when they barge into other countries, kill innocent people in Pakistan with their drones and assassinate their 'enemies' while their president watches from his bunker.

    Apparently Obama and his country have a 'kill-list' of their enemies - reminiscent of Hitler and the Nazis

    And the west keeps quiet

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    In the end, the countries that appointed their ambassador to UN, must consult with USA first, to see if the candidate have any problem with USA. This is a right thing to do. Just as when USA appoint an ambassador to other country, naturally, US government would consult the host country first. Principle of reciprocity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    Little question that the UN, financed in large part by the US (not an optimum situation considering Republican jingoism since Reagan) should press Iran to provide an Ambassador not tainted by the hostage atrocity. With considerable progress on Iran's nuclear ambitions, sans Ahmadinejad, over the last year it would be absurd for Iran to dig in on an individual that cannot obtain a simple US visa!

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    435...America speciality is drones and wars...which is worse?

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Former US President George Bush Jnr picked John Bolton as UN Ambassador. The same John Bolton who said the UN doesn't exist and would spin claims about adversarial states so as to influence decision making and thus orient US foreign policy towards a Neo-Con agenda.

  • Comment number 437.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    I think the time has come for the UN to move house to Geneva.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    #433 Cyrus the Great doesn't have a thing to do with today's ayatollah or his mullahs, any more than Ming Dynasty emperors have to do with the Chinese Communist leadership.The reason U,S. arms went to Iran was to coax them to tell their proxies in Lebanon to free U.S. citizens they'd taken hostage. Hostage taking seems to be an Iranian specialty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Of course the US have no problem in giving visa's to Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams, but then again there are probably more Irish votes in the US than Iranian ones.

    One can just loose sight of the definition of terrorist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    About 99% of commentators in the Iran debate know absolutely nothing about the country, its people, its politics, its culture nor its history. Western leaders are equally ignorant.

    Is it any wonder the US can not move forward on this subject? Ah, and don't forget, the US sold weapons to Iran in the 1980s via ... wait for it ... Israel!

    So, relations can be built where mutually beneficial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    @ 431,
    " - all they want is to be treated as equals by the US.."

    Yeah, all that "Death to the Great Satan" stuff is just a cry for acceptance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    This whole story reads like two kids having a spat in the kindergarten - pathetic and juvenile behaviour making for a very sad day in global affairs.

    I have watch Iran for many years, and visited Iran on several occasions - all they want is to be treated as equals by the US but, every time the US does something stupid like this, the US shoots itself in the foot .. again .. and again .. and again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.


    Interesting in depth analysis clearly showing an embassy coming under attack is an act of war.

    Funnily when it comes to US, one doesn't have to rely on the finer nuances. As Invading a sovereign country is an act of war in anyone's language unless you call it a "humanitarian effort", in which case it is.......still an act of war leaving millions dead and countries ravaged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    For Iran to claim "international law violation" is rather two faced in MHO. Attacking and invading ANY other country's Embassy or Consulate grounds is, under international law, an act of War. Unless the law regarding this have been changed over the years; the Iranian revolutionary government, via their so-called "students", DECLARED WAR on the U.S. in 1979 by INVADING US soil and taking hostages.


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