White House to Iran: No visa for UN envoy pick

WASHINGTON: The United States, in a rare diplomatic rebuke, will not grant a visa to Tehran’s pick for envoy to the United Nations, the Obama administration said Friday.
The move could complicate efforts to thaw the decades-long diplomatic freeze between the US and Iran, as the two countries negotiate a deal to curb Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
President Barack Obama’s administration had previously said only that it opposed the nomination of Hamid Aboutalebi, who was a member of the group responsible for the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran as a revolution erupted in Iran. US officials had hoped the issue could be resolved by Tehran simply withdrawing the nomination.
That did not happen, so the US made the unusual, if not unprecedented, move to not grant a visa to a U.N. ambassadorial nominee.
“We’ve communicated with the Iranians at a number of levels and made clear our position on this – and that includes our position that the selection was not viable,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “Our position is that we will not be issuing him a visa.”
Aboutalebi is alleged to have participated in a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days during the takeover. His nomination has outraged members of Congress, who passed a bill barring entry to the US to an individual found to be engaged in espionage, terrorism or a threat to national security.
Carney would not say whether Obama would sign the bill but said the president shares its sentiments.
United Nations officials had no immediate comment on the US decision.