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White House Denied Visa To Iranian UN Nominee Tied To Hostage Crisis

April 11, 2014

On Friday afternoon, the White House denied a visa to Hamid Abutalebi, therefore preventing him from stepping on U.S. soil and from being able to attend meetings at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.  The White House decision was made based upon Abutalebi’s alleged ties to the Iranian Hostage Crisis that took place at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.  The decision from the White House has garnered praise from both Democrats and Republicans.


The White House announced Friday that the U.S. will not issue a visa to Iran’s choice for U.N. ambassador, over concerns about his involvement in the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.

The decision comes after Congress earlier this week approved a bill that would bar Hamid Abutalebi from stepping on U.S. soil. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House is reviewing that legislation but announced that Abutalebi would be barred anyway.

“We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Abutalebi,” Carney said. “We certainly share the intent of the bill passed by Congress as we have already told the U.N. and Iran that we will not issue a visa.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was “not a viable nomination.”

Denying visas to U.N. ambassadorial nominees or to foreign heads of state who want to attend United Nations events in the United States is rare, if not unprecedented.

American officials, though, have objected to the selection of Abutalebi because of his alleged participation in a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in the 1979 incident. The concerns became a rare point of bipartisan agreement in Congress. The House unanimously approved the legislation on Thursday by voice vote, four days after a similar vote in the Senate.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who sponsored the measure in the Senate, said Friday he appreciates the president “doing the right thing” and blocking the ambassador from the U.S.

“I think that’s a real moment of clarity,” Cruz told Fox News, in describing the bipartisan agreement on the issue.

Earlier this week, Cruz called the nomination “a deliberate and unambiguous insult to the United States.”

The dispute comes amid nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers.

U.S. immigration law allows broad rejection of visas to foreigners and, in many cases, officials do not have to give an explicit reason for why other than to deem the applicant a threat to national security or American policy.

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