Iran says it has no plans to substitute UN envoy

Tehran to challenge US decision to deny Hamid Aboutalebi a visa for his part in 1979 hostage crisis

Hamid Aboutalebi (photo credit: screenshot via YouTube)
Hamid Aboutalebi (photo credit: screenshot via YouTube)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Saturday it had no plans to name a new diplomat to the United Nations after the United States blocked the man Tehran chose.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency as saying that the Islamic Republic instead seeks to challenge the US decision through legal channels.

The US blocked Iran’s pick because it alleges Hamid Aboutalebi took part in the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.

Aboutalebi says he was only a translator when militant students stormed the Embassy. Iran says he is one of the country’s best diplomats, and that he previously received a US visa. He has already served at Iranian diplomatic missions in Australia, Belgium and Italy.

US officials had initially hoped the issue could be resolved by Tehran simply withdrawing the nomination. When this did not happen the US said it would deny Aboutalebi a visa.

“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 Friday. “Our position is that we will not be issuing him a visa.”

In past problematic visa cases for ambassadors and even heads of state — such as with a previous Iranian nominee in the early 1990s and more recently with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir — the US has either signaled opposition to the applicant and the request has been withdrawn, or the State Department has simply declined to process the application. Those options, as well as approving or denying the application, are available in the current case.

US immigration law allows broad rejection of visas to foreigners and, in many cases, authorities do not have to give an explicit reason why other than to deem the applicant a threat to national security or American policy.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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