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US bars Iran’s Foreign Minister from entering country for UN meeting

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
January 07, 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be prohibited from attending the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday after the U.S. denied his visa.

News of Zarif’s visa being denied was first brought to Reuters by an unnamed U.S. official. Zarif appeared to confirm the news in a tweet.

Zarif said the decision to deny his visa is a violation of the 1947 U.N. headquarters agreement, though he said it “pales in comparison” to other U.S. actions that he said variously constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes and economic terrorism.

Under the 1947 headquarters agreement, the U.S. is generally required to allow diplomats of U.N. member countries to enter the country; however, the U.S. says it can still deny visas based on concerns about “security, terrorism and foreign policy.”

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to speak on more specific details pertaining to Zarif’s visa issues, but told reporters on Tuesday, “We will always comply with our obligations under the UN requirements and the Headquarters Agreement, and we will do so in this particular instance and more broadly every day.”

U.N. officials declined Reuters’ requests for comment.

The news of visa decision against Zarif comes in the days after a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, while he was traveling in Baghdad, Iraq.

Zarif had planned to visit the U.N. before recent escalatory actions between the U.S. and Iran. Zarif’s scheduled visit would have provided Iran a platform to criticize President Donald Trump’s order to carry out the strike against Soleimani.

Zarif previously attended the U.N. in September, in the weeks after Saudi Arabia and the U.S. accused Iran of orchestrating the missile and drone attacks against major oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia.

He was allowed into the U.S. at the time, although the U.S. sanctioned him, which barred Zarif from owning U.S. property or interests.

During a previous visit to the U.S. in July, Washington reportedly placed travel restrictions on Zarif, which confined him to a small section of New York City, near the U.N.

Iranian leaders have called for strikes against up to 35 U.S. targets in the Middle East, including U.S. warships in the region, in retaliation to the U.S. airstrike against Soleimani.

The Pentagon has deployed thousands of additional troops to the region, including a special operations task force, amid heightened security concerns of Iranian attacks. The U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens inside Iraq to evacuate the country out of concern for attacks, and has warned travelers against coming to Iraq.