The State Department said Friday it will give expedited treatment to a request by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address a critical U.N. Security Council session on Iran's nuclear program. The council is poised to tighten sanctions on Tehran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Officials here say the final decision to grant the visa has not yet been made, but they are also strongly indicating that the Iranian leader will be allowed in under terms of U.S. treaty obligations as the United Nations host country.
In a talk with reporters, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the visa request for Mr. Ahmadinejad and his entourage was submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland, which looks after U.S. interests in Iran
McCormack said the United States will do all it can to expedite the request by the Iranian leader, who wants to address the Security Council as it prepares to vote - probably sometime next week - on the new nuclear resolution.
The measure, a follow-on to a sanctions resolution approved in December, would tighten penalties against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment and return to negotiations over its nuclear program, widely suspected of having a secret weapons component.
Although Mr. Ahmadinejad has already expressed scorn for a pending new resolution and the Security Council itself, McCormack said he hoped the Iranian leader will take the opportunity of the U.N. appearance to accept an enrichment freeze and the standing offer from the five permanent Security Council member countries and Germany of incentives to return to nuclear negotiations:
"They should take the opportunity to acknowledge the signal that has been sent to them by the international system that Iran's behavior is outside the norm and that they are willing to accept the very attractive offer to negotiate that has been extended to them," he said. "Thus far they have refused. That would be an important use of that moment, and not to hear a screed against the Security Council or the worthlessness of Security Council resolutions. We hope we don't hear that.
The December resolution ordered U.N. member countries to stop supplying Iran with hardware or technology that could advance its nuclear or missile programs, and also imposed financial penalties against key individuals involved with those programs.
The new draft is understood to, among other things, expand those targeted sanctions to leaders of, and businesses associated with, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps which reportedly operates key aspects of the nuclear program.
Iran has insisted its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and that it has a right to develop all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle for a planned network of power reactors.
President Ahmadinejad, elected in 2005, has made two United Nations appearances since then, delivering Iran's policy speeches in the last two opening sessions of the General Assembly.