No progress at UN in Iran-US envoy row

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Iran brought its simmering row with the United States over its proposed UN ambassador to United Nations headquarters today but failed to make any headway.

US President Barack Obama signed into law Friday a bill designed to bar Iran's pick for UN ambassador from US soil over his links to the 1979 American embassy hostage siege.

The spat over Hamid Aboutalebi's nomination has blown up amid a cautious thaw in relations between the US and Iran as Tehran's new leadership seeks to negotiate a nuclear treaty with global powers.

The United States, which hosts the UN, has said it would not issue a visa to Aboutalebi because he was involved in the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran.

Iran, which does not want to select another candidate, asked the United Nations, in New York, to weigh in.

A committee on relations with the host country failed to reach a conclusion.

"Iran and the US presented their views on the well-known incident concerning the denial of a visa to the new permanent representative of Iran," said Nicholas Emiliou, the Cypriot Ambassador, who led the committee.

He added that "we will continue to be in touch with the relevant delegations," but did not give a date on any potential further meeting and will monitor the diplomatic impasse.

According to diplomats, Belarus, Cuba and North Korea were in favour of Iran during the session that lasted barely an hour.

The committee can make recommendations to the UN General Assembly or seek legal advice, but did not, said a diplomat, adding: "Iran has not been successful."

In 1979, dozens of American diplomats and staff were held for 444 days by radical Iranian students at the embassy in Tehran.

The protracted standoff profoundly shocked the United States and led to the severing of all diplomatic ties between the US and Iran for the past three decades.

As the host government, the United States is generally obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at the United Nations.

Aboutalebi, a veteran diplomat who currently heads Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's political affairs bureau, has insisted he was not part of the hostage-taking in November 1979, when a Muslim student group seized the US embassy after the overthrow of the pro-Western shah.

He has acknowledged he served a limited role as a translator for the students who took the Americans hostage.


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