Tehran has dismissed a U.S. decision to deny a visa to Iran's proposed new UN envoy, Hamid Abutalebi, saying it would take up the case directly with the United Nations. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iranian media on April 12 that Tehran plans to resolve the issue through the UN "legal mechanisms." Araqchi said "we are not considering an alternative pick" to Abutalebi.
Hamid Abutalebi (R) with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
(read related commentaries published by Etemaad daily)
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on April 11 the United Nations and Iran had been told "that we will not issue a visa" to Abutalebi.
Washington objects to Abutalebi's nomination because of his suspected participation in an Islamic student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days starting in 1979, when the group seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Abutalebi insists he only acted as a translator for the group.
Iran's UN mission spokesman, Hamid Babaei, said the U.S. decision to bar Abutalebi is "regrettable." and "in contravention of international law."
Under international law, the United States as the host government of the UN is obligated to issue visas to diplomats who serve at the New York-based world body.
The U.S. Congress recently passed legislation that would allow Washington to refuse an ambassadorial selection if the candidate posed a security risk.
The bill still requires the signature of the president before it can become law.
No UN Comment
Carney said President Barack Obama "shared the intent of the bill" and would not issue a visa for Abutalebi.
The UN has not yet commented on Abutalebi's situation.
In a similar case, Washington refused a visa to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to give a speech at the UN in 1998.
The UN had condemned that decision.
Abutalebi has previously served as Iran's ambassador to the European Union, Belgium, Italy, and Australia.
Earlier in April, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had condemned the bill, describing its supporters as a "group of radicals."
Zarif said the move by the U.S. Congress would not influence Iran's foreign policies.
Bahman Aghai Diba, a U.S.-based Iranian expert on international law, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the controversy surrounding Abutalebi's visa would not affect Iran's ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West, as well as its relations with the United States.
"Iran's envoy to the United Nations is neither a member of the [nuclear] negotiating team, nor has a role in determining the agenda of [nuclear] negotiations," Diba said.
Based on reporting by mehrnews.com and AFP
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