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Iran stands by its envoy pick

April 12, 2014

Iran has said it is not considering a replacement nominee for its UN envoy in New York after US officials called Hamid Aboutalebi "not viable" as a choice and denied him a visa.

UN headquarters New York
Image: Fotolia/TAF

On Saturday, a day after the United States denied Hamid Aboutalebi a visa, Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, said the country would pursue the issue "through legal mechanisms at the UN." Iranian officials had previously called the US objection to Aboutalebi unacceptable.

"We are not considering an alternative pick," Araqchi told the Mehr news agency Saturday.

Aboutalebi, a veteran diplomat, is believed to have taken part in what is known in the US as the Iran hostage crisis - when Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days from November 1979 to January 1981. Iranian officials say Aboutalebi served as a translator and negotiator during the hostage situation. They also say that he had previously received a US visa and that he has served at the Iranian missions in Australia, Belgium and Italy.

As the host country, the US is generally obligated to grant entry to envoys and heads of state attending the General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City (pictured). However, Washington holds the legal right to bar entry to diplomats under special circumstances such as involvement in terrorist activities.

'We will not'

On Friday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters that the decision was final.

"We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa," Carney said at a news conference.

The row presents a challenge to US President Barack Obama's push for a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran after decades of mistrust. However, Carney said that he did not expect the spat to negatively influence talks aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activities. Those talks have made significant progress since they began late last year, but have yet to arrive at a deal.

It remains to be seen if Iran holds a similar view of the diplomatic spat, given the foreign minister's response to the situation earlier in the week - before the US had officially denied Aboutalebi's visa.

"We announced to the Americans one of our most rational and experienced diplomats as our United Nations envoy," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif told Iranian media during a visit to Vienna on Tuesday. "The government of the United States is well aware that this kind of behavior is by no means acceptable for us."

mkg/hc (AFP, Reuters, AP)