No new Iran UN envoy as US denies visa
Iran has no plans to name a new diplomat to the UN, its Foreign Ministry has said, after the US blocked its pick in a rare rebuke that could stir fresh animosity at a time when the two countries have been seeking a thaw in relations.
The Obama administration said on Friday that the US had informed Iran it would not grant a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, a member of the group responsible for the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran.
While US officials had been trying to persuade Iran to simply withdraw Mr Aboutalebi's name, the announcement amounted to an acknowledgement that those efforts had not been successful.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pursuing this issue through anticipated legal channels at the UN," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi was quoted as saying by Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency. "We have no choice to substitute Mr Aboutalebi."
Mr Aboutalebi is alleged to have participated in a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days during the embassy takeover. He has insisted his involvement in the group, Muslim Students Followers the Imam's Line, was limited to translation and negotiation. Iran says he is one of the country's best diplomats, and that he previously received a US visa. He has already served on diplomatic missions in Australia, Belgium and Italy.
Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for the Iranian UN Mission, on Friday said the decision was not only regrettable but "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."
As host country for the UN, the US must provide rights to persons invited to the New York headquarters. However, exceptions can be made when a visa applicant is found to have engaged in spying against the US or poses a threat to US national security.