Iran Defends UN Nominee, Says U.S. Stance Unacceptable

Iran defended its proposed new envoy to the United Nations and criticized the U.S. for threatening to block him on the grounds he was linked to the hostage-taking at the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

“The U.S. administration’s approach to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s representative to the UN is not acceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said today, adding that Iran has “officially communicated our opinion.” Hamid Aboutalebi, the proposed candidate, is one of the country’s “best diplomats,” she said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that the U.S. has informed Iran’s government that Aboutalebi is “not viable” as an ambassador to the UN, whose headquarters are in New York. The Senate passed legislation to bar him from entering the U.S. because of his role in the hostage crisis.

The dispute comes as the U.S. and Iran are seeking to repair ties that broke down over the takeover of the Tehran embassy by a group of radicals during the 1979 Islamic revolution. The U.S. is leading negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear program, and President Barack Obama has come under criticism in Congress for agreeing to ease some sanctions in return for progress in the talks.

U.S. Interference

Aboutalebi was a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line, a group that seized the U.S. Embassy on Nov. 4, 1979, saying they aimed to end decades of U.S. interference. Aboutalebi, a former ambassador to Belgium and Italy, has said he acted mostly as a translator and negotiator.

Carney didn’t say whether the U.S. would refuse to give Aboutalebi a visa if Iran persists with his appointment. Under legislation governing the UN headquarters in New York, the U.S. has the right to deny visas to people deemed a security threat.

The issue arose for former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he applied for travel documents in 2005. Amid allegations that Ahmadinejad was one of the hostage-takers, the Department of Homeland Security initially found him ineligible for a visa to enter the U.S. The State Department granted one months later after interviewing former hostages.

The latest dispute shows how the troubled history between Iran and the U.S. can still “create obstacles on the road to easing tensions,” Ali Khorram, a previous Iranian envoy at the UN, wrote in the Tehran-based Shargh newspaper today. “Whether we like or not, this issue will continue manifesting itself.”

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