News / Middle East

    Shades of 1979: US Disputing Iran's Choice for UN Ambassador

    Ken Bredemeier
    There is a new conflict between the United States and Iran, and its origins extend back to 1979 when a group of militants took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days.  Now, Iran is looking to name a man with a connection to the hostage-taking to be its ambassador to the United Nations, but American officials are seeking to block his entry into the country.  

    Iran wants Hamid Aboutalebi to be its new ambassador to the United Nations in New York.  He has served Tehran at diplomatic postings in Australia, Belgium and Italy, but his prospective appointment as Tehran's U.N. envoy is drawing a sharp rebuke from the U.S. government.

    American officials view his appointment as an affront, saying he should not be allowed to enter the United States because of his alleged involvement in the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in late 1979, when 52 diplomats were held hostage until early 1981.

    Former hostage Barry Rosen:

    "The attempted appointment by, I would think Ayatollah Rouhani, is an absolute outrage at a very sensitive moment in the history between Iran and the United States in negotiating the issue of nuclear enrichment.  The Islamic republic has the audacity to appoint a former hostage taker, the man who was part and parcel of the hostage-taking to be its U.N. ambassador.  It is an absolute affront to the United States and to any country that believes in democracy and freedom," said Rosen.

    Rosen is now 70-years-old and working as a community college spokesman in New York.  He says he does not remember Aboutalebi, but says in a VOA interview that Iran's attempt to name him to the U.N. post is effectively trying to "legitimize" the embassy takeover 35 years ago.

    For his part, Aboutalebi told a conservative Iranian web site that he was not involved in the hostage-taking.  But he said that "once or twice" he acted as a French or English translator when the hostage-takers wanted to send a message to the outside world during the prolonged embassy takeover.

    Under most circumstances, the United States is obligated to grant visas to foreign envoys traveling to New York to represent their countries at the United Nations.  Another of the one-time hostages, John Limbert, says that while that is usually the case, the United States appears ready to take a stand against Aboutalebi.

    "Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand times we do.  But there have been exceptions in the past, and in this case we are obviously ready to make an exception," said Limbert.

    The U.S. Senate this week unanimously passed legislation to bar Aboutalebi from entering the United States to serve at the U.N.  The U.S. House of Representatives could soon consider the measure.

    Senator Ted Cruz said there is no way Aboutalebi should be allowed to enter the U.S.

    "There are no circumstances in which the United States should grant such a person a visa, and our immediate concern is to prevent Mr. Aboutalebi from ever setting foot on American soil," said Cruz.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States has told Iran its hope to send Aboutalebi to the United Nations is "not viable," but declined to say whether it would bar him from entering the country.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora