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12 Apr, 2014 13:28

Iran shrugs off envoy’s US visa ban, calls for UN intervention

Iran shrugs off envoy’s US visa ban, calls for UN intervention

Tehran on Saturday sidestepped Washington’s refusal to grant a visa to Iran’s new ambassador to the United Nations, headquartered in New York, saying it would consult directly with the world body on the matter.

In response to Washington’s rather refusal to grant a US visa to Hamid Abutalebi, citing the newly appointed Iranian envoy's participation in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, Tehran has said it would consult with the UN to resolve the issue.

"We do not have a replacement for Abutalebi and we will pursue the matter via legal mechanisms anticipated in the United Nations," Abbas Araghchi, a senior Foreign Ministry official and leading nuclear negotiator, was quoted by Iran's official IRNA news agency as saying.

Washington has expressed its disapproval of Abutalebi because of his alleged past affiliation with a Muslim student group that seized the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Aboutalebi, 56, has previously served as Iran’s ambassador to three countries and the European Union.

The showdown, which comes just months after the presidents of the US and Iran had their first formal discussion in 30 years, places President Obama between a political rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he will not want to push too hard on Iran and risk disrupting the fragile negotiation process over Iran’s nuclear energy program. On the other hand, backing down on the issue would open him up to fierce criticism from Republicans.

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to bar Aboutalebi from entering America over what that measure’s author, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), called a “deliberate and unambiguous insult to the United States.”

Iranian politicians fired back at the refusal, calling it “interference” in the affairs of the world body.

"The US Senate action to bar Aboutalebi’s entry as Iran's designated ambassador at the UN is sheer interference in the internal affairs of the UN," Mohammad Hassan Asafari, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said earlier in the week.

“The Americans are not entitled to the right to oppose the entry of the Islamic Republic of Iran's representative at the UN and the US Senate approval is illegal."

White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed on Friday confirmed Aboutalebi would be denied an American visa, effectively barring him from performing the required duties of a UN ambassador.

"We concur with the Congress and share the intent of the bill," Carney said, according to Reuters.