US denies entry to 20 members of Ahmadinejad’s retinue, including two ministers

Iranian president sets off for New York, where he will address UN General Assembly, give series of TV interviews

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo credit: CC-BY-Daniella Zalcman, Wikimedia Commons)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo credit: CC-BY-Daniella Zalcman, Wikimedia Commons)

The United States government refused entry to 20 members of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad himself departed Saturday for New York City, where he will address the General Assembly on Wednesday and give a series of US and international TV interviews.

Twenty of the 160 members of the Iranian delegation, including two members of Ahmadinejad’s cabinet, did not receive entry visas to the US, Iranian media reported on Saturday. The initial reports did not name the ministers affected.

Washington offered no formal reason for rejecting the visa requests that were submitted months in advance, but the decision was regarded as part of the travel restrictions imposed on Iran as part of international sanctions over its nuclear program.

Earlier this week a former Canadian minister of justice and attorney-general urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to ban Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech. Irwin Cotler charged that Ahmadinejad belongs “in the docket of the accused rather than at the podium of the UN.”

A week earlier, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor called on world leaders to boycott Ahmadinejad’s September 26 speech.

Before taking off from Tehran, Ahmadinejad told reporters that his speech will deal with regional issues, including the need to bring an end to the violence in Syria. He blamed world powers for hurting the independence of other countries by only looking out for their own interests.

Ahmadinejad has reportedly accepted interview requests from several American and international news networks, including CNN, CBS and Russia Today, according to the semi-official Iranian Fars News agency.

Ahmadinejad has visited New York seven times to attend UN General Assembly meetings since assuming the presidency in 2005.

Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN will likely be his last, for his second term as president is set to expire in 2013.

 

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