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Iran Refuses To Name New UN Diplomat In US Visa Squabble

Iran said Saturday it has no immediate plans to name a new diplomat to represent it at the United Nations, following a U.S. decision to deny a visa to Iran's original pick.

A top Iranian Foreign Ministry official said Iran does not have a replacement for Hamid Abutalebi and will pursue the visa denial issue through legal mechanisms at the U.N.

American officials oppose the selection of Abutalebi because of his alleged involvement in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. He was a member of the Muslim student group that held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

Abutalebi says his involvement in the group Muslim Students Following the Imam's Line was limited to translation and negotiation.

On Saturday, a leader of and participant in that group, Ebrahim Asgharzade, told a Chinese state-run television network that Abutalebi was not an organizer and leader of the hostage crisis. Asgharzade said Abutalebi did only translation work for student group.

Abutalebi has been Iran's ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia.

On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney called Abutalebi's selection to the United Nations "not viable."

Iran's mission to the U.N. said the U.S. decision is "regrettable" and goes against international law and the right of sovereign states to name their U.N. representatives.

The Iranian hostage crisis led Washington and Teheran to cut diplomatic relations.

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