10312014Fri

U.S. denies visas to Iran officials for U.N. meeting: report

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United States has denied visas to Iranian officials hoping to attend a U.N. meeting in New York, Iran's state news agency reported on Saturday.

The Iranian judiciary's Human Rights Headquarters said in a statement that the United States denied visas to members of an Iranian delegation that planned to travel to a meeting of the United Nations' Third Committee, which focuses on social issues and human rights, state news agency IRNA said.

"The U.S. government, by not issuing visas to the members of the delegation, wants to ruin the possibility of the presence of the delegation, and prevent its members from conducting their mission of interacting and cooperating with the United Nations," said the statement, according to IRNA.

The judiciary body urged U.N. officials to warn the United States against such decisions and remind it of its obligations as U.N. host country, IRNA reported. It did not say how many Iranian officials had applied for visas from the United States or when they wanted to travel.

The Swiss embassy, which handles U.S. consular services in Iran, did not respond immediately to a request from comment. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said it did not comment on visa cases.

As U.N. host country, the United States has a policy of issuing visas for members of delegations, in line with a 1947 pact with the United Nations, regardless of disputes with individual countries.

However, it does sometimes refuse entry to government officials and professionals from Iran with which it has had no diplomatic ties since 1979 and which it accuses of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

In September, Iran's Fars news agency reported that the U.S. had denied visas to about 20 government officials hoping to attend the U.N. General Assembly, including two ministers, although President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did attend and addressed the assembly.

At the time, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Visas for foreign officials to attend U.N. meetings in the U.N. headquarters district are adjudicated in accordance with all applicable laws and procedures including both U.S. law and the U.N. Headquarters Agreement, however, visa records are confidential."

In 2009, as Iranian authorities were crushing protests against the re-election of Ahmadinejad, Iran said a delegation headed by its first vice president had been refused visas to attend a U.N. conference on the global financial crisis.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Alison Williams)

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