Iran Weighing Response to US Visa Bill

Iran Weighing Response  to US Visa Bill  Iran Weighing Response  to US Visa Bill

Iran will take action against a bill recently passed by the US House of Representatives introducing modifications to the visa waiver program, which could harm Tehran's interests if it is in breach of the July 14 nuclear deal with major powers, a deputy foreign minister said.

The bill, proposed in response to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, was overwhelmingly passed in the chamber on Tuesday by 407 to 19.

It tightens controls on travel to the United States by citizens of 38 states who have been allowed to enter the country without a visa under a program launched in 1986 to boost tourism and tighten the country's relationship with close allies, IRNA reported.

The measure would require visitors from the visa waiver countries, which include much of Western Europe, to obtain a visa to travel to the United States if they have been to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan during the past five years.

"There are many dimensions to the legislation, which we are examining. If it is a violation of provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will take action. After all, the bill has not yet been finalized," Abbas Araqchi said, using the official name of the nuclear deal.

The measure is yet to pass the US Senate and be signed by US President Barack Obama to become law.

The action plan struck with P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) will remove international sanctions against Tehran in return for temporary constraints on its nuclear program.

"We are consulting with P5+1 and EU foreign policy chief [Federica Mogherini] on the issue," Araqchi, who is also the head of the Foreign Ministry's office for the JCPOA implementation, was quoted by IRNA as saying on Sunday.

Twenty million visitors a year enter the United States under the scheme for stays of up to 90 days.

The US Congress has been focused on visa waivers since Paris shootings and bombings because some of the militants behind the attacks were allegedly Europeans radicalized after visiting Syria.


***US Hostility   

Vahid Ahmadi, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, took a critical position against the congressional move, saying Obama is bound by the deal to block such measures.

"Definitely, the bill restricting visits to Iran, Iraq and Syria violates the JCPOA. The US president is committed under the deal to take necessary measures to stop the legislation," Ahmadi told ICANA on Saturday.

The accord bans any "hostile move or approach against Iran" by the other side, he noted, adding that the measure demonstrates the US hostility toward the Islamic Republic by naming Iran along with countries where terrorist groups were born and bred.

The move drew sharp criticism from Iranian users of social networking websites, making a Persian-language spokesperson for the US Department of State Alan Eyre to acknowledge Iranians' grievances over the issue in comments on his Facebook page, vowing to communicate them to relevant US authorities.

"Most of your responses and views were highly negative and critical. You should know that I am an attentive listener and bring Iranians' highly popular views on daily matters to the attention of top US administration officials," Eyre was quoted by ISNA as saying.