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U.S. tells Iran U.N. envoy pick is ‘not viable’

President Barack Obama pauses as he listens to Women’s rights activist Lilly Ledbetter speak in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014, during an event marking Equal Pay Day where he will announce new executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON: The White House said Tuesday that the United States had notified Iran’s government that its pick to be Iran’s new U.N. ambassador was not viable.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration found Iran’s choice of Hamid Abutalebi’s extremely troubling.

The Senate Monday approved a bill barring Abutalebi from entering the U.S. American officials have objected to his selection because of his alleged participation in a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Iran’s government had said earlier Tuesday it was still waiting for Washington’s formal response.

Carney didn’t say whether the U.S. would deny Abutalebi entrance into the country. 

Iran earlier defended its appointment of Abutalebi. 

“Iran has selected a veteran diplomat with a clear and successful [diplomatic] record as its ambassador to the United Nations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told AFP.

Abutalebi has previously served as Iran’s ambassador to the EU, Belgium, Italy and Australia.

Aboutalebi has insisted he was not part of the hostage-taking in November 1979, when students who had overthrown the pro-Western shah seized the U.S. Embassy, but that he later joined the student group.

 

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