WHITE HOUSE — The White House says it will not issue a visa to the man Iran has picked to be its envoy to the United Nations.
It is rare that the U.S. would deny a visa to a U.N. envoy, but White House spokesman Jay Carney says that is the Obama administration's decision in the case of Iranian envoy Hamid Aboutalebi.
“We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi," said Carney.
The United States opposes Iran's decision to send Aboutalebi to U.N. headquarters in New York City, because of his involvement in the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In that takeover, militants held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The U.S. Congress has passed a bill directing the president to deny admission to any U.N. representative who is found to have engaged in espionage, terrorism, and who may pose a threat to U.S. national security interests. That bill is now on its way to the president's desk.
Carney did not indicate whether President Obama will sign it. He said the president agrees with the intent of the bill.
“We've communicated with the Iranians at a number of levels and made clear our position on this, and that includes our position that the selection was not viable," he said.
Aboutalebi denies involvement in the embassy takeover and hostage taking, and says his role was limited to translating and assisting with negotiations.
U.S. officials on Friday said they do not expect that their decision to deny the Iranian envoy a visa will affect pending nuclear negotiations.
In a statement Friday, Iran's mission to the United Nations called the U.S. decision regrettable, saying it goes against international law and the right of sovereign states to designate their U.N. representatives.