New Envoy to UN Expected to Get Visa

New Envoy to UN Expected to Get Visa
New Envoy to UN Expected to Get Visa

The newly appointed UN ambassador is set to receive a US visa so he can take up that key post, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday, likely removing a major strain on Tehran's tense relations with Washington.

Washington had infuriated Iran's government last year by rejecting its previous appointee as head of its sole diplomatic mission on US soil over his role in the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.

The foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that career diplomat Gholamali Khoshroo had been appointed as the United Nations envoy. But it did not say whether he had been approved by Washington.

Several diplomatic sources, including a senior Iranian official, told Reuters on condition of anonymity it was almost certain that Khoshroo, a US-educated veteran diplomat with close ties to the reformists, would be approved by the United States.

An Iranian official told Reuters that the appointment had already been discussed at a senior level by US and Iranian officials prior to the Iranian announcement.

"Khoshroo has already been at the Iranian mission (to the United Nations) with the rank of ambassador and unless something crazy comes up, he's going to get his (UN) accreditation," a Western diplomatic source said. The United States, which hosts the United Nations, said in April that Iran's initial candidate, Hamid Aboutalebi, was unacceptable given his role in the capture of the US embassy. Aboutalebi said he acted only as a translator.

In November 1979, a group of students stormed the US embassy compound in Tehran. They believed the US mission had turned into a center of spying aimed at overthrowing the Islamic establishment which took over after the Islamic Revolution which had occurred earlier in the year. The students held 52 American nationals hostage at the embassy for 444 days until January 20, 1981.   

Washington's refusal to issue a visa for Aboutalebi last year came at a sensitive time for the two countries. Both the United States and Iran have been involved in negotiations on a long-term agreement to resolve the long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear work.

The United States cut off diplomatic ties with Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. That makes the Iranian UN mission a crucial operation.

While the United States officially uses Switzerland to deliver messages to Tehran, it uses the UN mission as an unofficial channel to discuss issues ranging from Iran's nuclear program to US citizens detained in the Islamic Republic, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

"We are aware of reports that Iran has appointed Gholamali Khoshroo as its permanent representative to the UN" a US official told Reuters.

Asked whether Khoshroo's visa would be approved, the official said, "All visa applications are reviewed individually in accordance with the requirements of US law."

  Veteran Diplomat

Khoshroo served as a deputy foreign minister under former president Mohammad Khatami from 2002 to 2005 and was a senior diplomat at the Iranian UN mission from 1989 to 1995 with the rank of ambassador. Since Khoshroo was previously granted a US visa as a senior diplomat, the sources said, Washington had already been able to conduct a thorough background search to make sure he had no links to the seizure of the US embassy.

It was not clear when Washington would formally approval Khoshroo's acceptance and when he would arrive in New York.

Khoshroo has degrees from Tehran University and the New School for Social Research in New York City.