TIME Iran

Iran to Challenge U.S. on Visa Denial for Envoy Pick

United Nations
If Congress has it its way, Hamid Aboutalebi will not be darkening the doors of this building anytime soon Getty Images

Tehran plans to challenge the U.S. decision to deny a visa to diplomat Hamid Aboutalebi over his involvement in the 1979 hostage-taking of Americans. A Foreign Ministry official said that Iran would take the matter to the United Nations

Updated April 12, 7:23 a.m. ET

A day after the U.S. said it would not allow Iran’s proposed U.N. envoy Hamid Aboutalebi, a diplomat with links to the 1979 hostage crisis, to enter the country, Iran has dismissed the decision and affirmed it would take the issue directly to the U.N.

“We do not have a replacement for Mr. Aboutalebi and we will pursue the matter via legal mechanisms anticipated in the United Nations,” said Abbas Araghchi, a senior Foreign Ministry official, as quoted by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday the U.S. had informed the U.N. and Iran it would not issue the visa. Asked whether the Obama Administration is concerned the action may impact ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, Carney said, “We do not expect them to.”

Under a 1947 treaty establishing the headquarters of the UN in New York, the U.S. is generally required to expeditiously approve visa requests for UN diplomats. But on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said visas can still be denied on “security, terrorism, and foreign policy” grounds.

However, neither Psaki nor Carney would expand on the reasons for denying Aboutalebi’s visa.

“We’ve been very clear with the Iranians that this nomination is not viable,” Psaki said Friday. “So there has been no secret of that, but I think they understand what the reasons are.”

In 1988, the U.S. denied a visa to then Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat to visit the U.N. on account of his group’s ties to terrorism.

Carney’s comments came after Congress gave final passage this week to legislation to formally bar Aboutalebi, Iran’s choice to be its new United Nations ambassador, from entering the country.

Outraged by his involvement in the 1979 hostage-taking of Americans in Tehran, the House unanimously passed the bill Thursday. That followed Senate passage on Monday, which was also unanimous. If signed by President Barack Obama, the bill would bar representatives to the United Nations from entering the U.S., where the U.N. is headquartered, if such persons have engaged in espionage or terrorist activities against the United States.

Carney said Friday that the Administration is “reviewing the legislation and will work to address any issues related to its utility and constitutionality.” It remains unclear if Obama will sign or veto it. Lawmakers sponsoring the bill have called on the President to “act quickly.”

“We, as a country, can send an unequivocal message to rogue nations like Iran that the United States will not tolerate this kind of provocative and hostile behavior,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) said in a statement.

Aboutalebi previously served as Iran’s ambassador to the European Union, Australia, Belgium and Italy.

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