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Iran seeks meeting on banned U.N. envoy

Reuters

Iran on Monday requested a special meeting of a U.N. committee on the United States’ refusal to grant a visa to Tehran’s new U.N. ambassador appointee, describing the decision as a dangerous precedent that could harm international diplomacy.

The United States said Friday it will not grant a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi because of his links to the 1979-1981 Tehran hostage crisis when radical Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Aboutalebi has said that he acted only as a translator.

Cyprus U.N. Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, who chairs the 19-member committee dealing with issues including immigration and security, said a meeting will likely be held next week.

“They have specified that they do not request any action on the part of the committee. They simply wish to brief us for the time being at least,” Emiliou said of Iran’s request.

In a letter to the U.N. Committee on Relations with the Host Country, Iran expressed its “serious concern over the clear indication of refusal of granting visa by the host country authorities in breach of their legal obligations under international law and the headquarters agreement.”

Iran also asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to circulate the letter to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.

Officials, diplomats and academics could not recall past cases of the United States denying a U.N. ambassador’s visa.

Under a 1947 “headquarters agreement,” the United States is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats. But Washington says it can deny visas for “security, terrorism, and foreign policy” reasons.

In 1988, Washington denied a visa for Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, who wanted to address a U.N. debate on Palestine. George Schultz, the U.S. secretary of state at the time, said Arafat was denied entry because he condoned terrorist attacks on Americans.