TEHRAN - A senior Iranian military official has urged the foreign ministry to name a new envoy to the UN after the US blocked its chosen ambassador
over alleged ties to the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Saturday.
Gen. Mohammad Bagherzadeh also said that Hamid Aboutalebi should remain close to his mother because the family lost two sons during the 1980-88 war with Iraq.
US President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday aimed at blocking Aboutalebi from entering the United States.
The unusual legislation bars anyone from entering the US as a UN representative if they've engaged in espionage or terrorist activity and still pose a threat to US security. It's aimed at blocking Aboutalebi, a member of the Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days during the embassy takeover.
Aboutalebi has insisted his involvement in the group was limited to translation and negotiation.
Tehran has accused the US of setting a dangerous precedent by violating the right of sovereign states to designate representatives to the United Nations, and said it was challenging the US "through legal channels."
Iranian lawmakers say American opposition to Aboutalebi's entry is a misuse of the geographical location of the UN.
The sensitive dispute comes amid efforts between Washington and Tehran to thaw relations over Iran's nuclear program.
The administration has said Aboutalebi was an unacceptable choice and refused to grant him a visa. Yet the White House had been noncommittal about whether Obama would sign the legislation that Congress passed earlier this month.
The White House announcement Friday that Obama privately signed the legislation was accompanied by what's known as a signing statement. Presidents occasionally issue signing statements to assert that they believe part of the legislation is unconstitutional and therefore they intend to ignore it or implement it in a way they see fit.
"Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress' concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our nation," Obama said in the statement. But he said he will treat the legislation as advisory out of concern it could interfere with his discretion to receive ambassadors.
Iran can choose to nominate a different ambassador or have Aboutalebi occupy the post from overseas. So far, Tehran has refused to name a different envoy.
As host country for the United Nations, the US must provide rights to persons invited to the New York headquarters. However, exceptions can be made when a visa applicant is found to have engaged in spying against the US or poses a threat to American national security.
Despite the decades-long tension between the US and Iran, the Islamic Republic maintains a robust diplomatic mission at UN headquarters in New York. The US frequently allows visas for representatives from countries it disfavors, including Syria and North Korea, but restricts their diplomats' movements and activities to a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius of New York City.