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US says Iran’s choice of UN envoy 'not viable'

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-09

The White House made clear on Tuesday that the US would not welcome Hamid Abutalebi as Iran’s new UN ambassador over his alleged role in the 1979-1981 Tehran hostage crisis, during which radical Iranian students held US Embassy staff for 444 days.

US officials have told Tehran that its selection of Abutalebi is “not viable,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday, but stopped short of saying the new envoy would be barred from entering the United States because of his alleged role in the crisis.

Asked to explain what “not viable” meant, Carney said: “It’s diplomatic jargon to mean what you want it to mean.” He emphasised that Iran’s choice of Abutalebi was a “potential selection” that had “not been formally made”.

As the “host” nation for the UN headquarters, which are based in New York, the United States is generally required to provide access to foreign diplomats. However, the State Department last week said US law allows it to deny visas to diplomats for reasons of “security, terrorism, and foreign policy”.

On Monday, the US Senate passed legislation to bar Abutalebi from entering the United States. Both Republicans and Democrats are united against the choice of the veteran Iranian diplomat.

“We share the Senate’s concerns regarding this case and find the potential nomination very troubling,” said Carney from the White House.

Nuclear talks

In remarks to Iranian media, Abutalebi has played down his role during the hostage crisis, suggesting he was just a translator.

It was unclear whether the dispute over the ambassador would have an impact on a new round of talks about Iran’s nuclear programme that began on Tuesday in Vienna between Iran and six major world powers, including the United States.

“It has been a usual practice in the Iranian Foreign Ministry to formally appoint ambassadors for all foreign postings, once all formalities pertaining to this process are completed,” a spokesman for Iran’s UN mission in New York said on Tuesday.

Abutalebi, who has served as Iran's ambassador to Italy, Belgium and Australia, was chosen to replace Iran's outgoing ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee.

Along with the UN envoy from North Korea and, more recently, Syria, Khazaee’s movements are confined to a radius of 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan, New York.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-04-09

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