The White House declared Iran’s pick for UN ambassador to be “not viable” a day after the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to block terrorists from entering the United States as envoys.
The bill, in response to Tehran naming Hamid Aboutalebi to the UN post, was a bipartisan effort led by Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.).
Aboutalebi, formerly Iran’s ambassador to Belgium and Italy, was a member of Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line when the group took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Iran submitted a visa application for Aboutalebi to come to New York and serve as Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“Well, we share the Senate’s concerns regarding this case and find the potential — the nomination is extremely troubling. The U.S. government has informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. “The legislation passed by the Senate underscores just how troubling this potential nomination would be.”
When asked if President Obama would sign the Senate’s bill, though, Carney tried to be extra-careful to not irritate Iran.
“First of all, this is a potential nomination. We’ve informed the government of Iran that this potential selection, rather, is not viable,” he said. “It’s a potential selection. As I understand it, it has not been formally made. We’ve informed the government that that selection’s not viable.”
A senior administration official said on background yesterday that “if in fact this possible nomination were in fact the person nominated, it would be extremely troubling, as both our deputy spokesperson has said and as the White House spokesperson has said.”
“We are taking a close look at this case now and we have raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran through a variety of channels that we use to convey our concerns,” the official said. “All I can say at this time regarding this is that if this possible nomination were the nomination, it would be extremely troubling, and we have raised those concerns with the Iranians.”
A member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. Mohammad Hassan Asafari, said the Senate’s action to “bar Aboutalebi’s entry as Iran’s designated ambassador at the UN is sheer interference in the internal affairs of the UN,” according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.
“The Americans are not entitled to the right to oppose the entry of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s representative at the UN and the U.S. Senate approval is illegal,” Asafari said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said Aboutalebi, “the ambassador who has been introduced[,] is qualified for the position and has had important diplomatic posts in European countries and Australia and has shown a good, effective and positive performance during his previous [diplomatic] career and missions.”