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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid