Senators Want to Block Visa for Iran Hostage Taker, New UN Emissary

Senators are trying to block Iran's new emissary to the United Nations, who participated in the 1979 taking of the American Embassy in Tehran, from getting a U.S. visa.

Hamid 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.

At the State Department on Monday, spokeswoman Marie Harf refused to comment on the new envoy. "The visa procedure is obviously confidential. We don’t discuss individual visa cases. People are free to apply for one, and their visas are adjudicated under the normal procedures that we adjudicate people’s. And we don’t comment and we don’t make a prediction about the outcome of what that process might look like," she said.

When asked if the U.S. kept a reference list of all people involved in the 1979 seizure, Harf said she didn't know.

"I really just don’t have anything further for you on the gentleman that they have reportedly named to be their UN perm-rep," she told reporters at the daily briefing. "I’m sure we’ll talk about it more in the coming days, but nothing for you today."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the granting of a visa would be "a slap in the face to the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days and an affront to all Americans."

“The very idea Iran would appoint someone to represent them at the United Nations in New York -- who was connected in such a direct way to the American Embassy takeover in 1979 -- says a lot about the regime and the so-called moderation of President Rouhani," Graham said this morning. “Iran has been involved in worldwide terrorism plots and designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran provided equipment used to kill American soldiers in Iraq. Iran supports Hamas and Hezbolloah, two terrorist organizations. And finally, Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, not a peaceful nuclear power plant."

“I’m hopeful the Senate will soon send a strong signal to Iranians that we will not accept this individual or allow him to represent Iran on American soil.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a bill yesterday banning known terrorists from entering the U.S. on visas.

“It is unconscionable that, in the name of international diplomatic protocol, the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard for the status of our diplomats when they were stationed in his country,” Cruz said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter demanding that Aboutalebi take his rightful place on a visa blacklist.

“This man has no place in the diplomatic process, and the State Department should flat-out deny his visa application," Schumer told the New York Post. "Iran’s attempt to appoint Mr. Aboutalebi is a slap in the face to the Americans that were abducted, and their families; it reveals a disdain for the diplomatic process and we should push back in kind.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Iran's selection "really kind of an in-your-face action by the Iranian government, sending a guy who was responsible for the absolutely, totally illegal incarceration of American citizens."