Iran has insisted it will not replace Hamid Aboutalebi as its new envoy to the UN in New York and accused the US of acting illegally by refusing a visa to the diplomat.
According to a senior Iranian official, they would “pursue the matter via legal mechanisms” with the United Nations.
The US accuses Hamid Aboutalebi of links to the group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, an incident that soured ties between the countries.
Hamid Aboutalebi says that he only acted as a translator for the group.
Congress passed a bill last week that would allow the US to refuse an ambassadorial selection if the candidate posed a security risk.
Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif condemned the move by US Congress.
He characterized those in favor of the bill as “a group of radicals” and said the move would not influence Iran’s policies.
Although the bill still requires the signature of the president before it can become law, Congress appears to have succeeded in getting Hamid Aboutalebi barred.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama “shared the intent of the bill”, and would not issue a visa.
Under international law, the US as the host nation for the UN is obliged to grant visas to states’ representatives.
In the most high-profile similar case, the US refused a visa to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to speak at the UN in 1998. The UN condemned that decision.
The UN has not yet commented on Hamid Aboutalebi’s situation.
Hamid Aboutalebi has previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the EU, Italy and Australia. He has said he was not part of the group that took over the US embassy, and was only later asked to translate for the students.
Fifty two Americans were held for 444 days during the 1979’s hostage crisis.
The hostage crisis was part of the revolution that overthrew Iran’s monarchy and installed the Islamic republic.
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