Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is calling on President Obama to stop Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from traveling to the United Nations headquarters in New York, even though doing so would violate international law.
Ahmadinejad will come to the United States this week for the United Nations General Assembly, where the focus will be on a Palestinian request for the body to recognize Palestine as a member state. Activists have already announced they will protest Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel's destruction, stoked tensions through his country's nuclear program and voiced fiercely anti-American rhetoric in previous U.N. speeches.
But if Obama were to thwart Ahmadinejad's visit, he would violate the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, which the United States signed in 1947. In exchange for having the U.N. headquarters in New York, the United States agreed not to block travel to the U.N. for officials from member countries.
The United States has never stopped an Iranian leader from visiting the U.N., said a former State Department official, who wasn't aware of leaders from any other nations being blocked either.
But the official said the United States can and has restricted Iranian leaders from traveling outside a specified radius of U.N. headquarters.
Bachmann's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message left seeking clarification.
Republican presidential candidates have been going to great lengths to demonstrate unwavering support for Israel ahead of the Palestinian statehood bid. Following Democrats' loss in a special House election in New York this month that was partially attributed to dwindling Jewish support for Obama, Republicans see inroads to the Jewish vote, which has historically gone to Democrats.