Iran's UN ambassador pick sparks outrage

The State Department on Wednesday said that Iran's selection of a participant in the 1979 hostage crisis to become its next ambassador to the United Nations was "extremely troubling," but insisted the nomination would not derail negotiations over Tehran's nuclear weapons program.

ADVERTISEMENT
"We think this nomination would be extremely troubling," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "We're taking a close look at the case now, and we've raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran."

The Iranian government has applied for a visa for Hamid Aboutalebi, a member of a student group that abducted U.S. personnel attached to the embassy in Tehran, triggering a 444-day standoff.

Lawmakers have decried his nomination as an insult and called on the State Department to deny his visa to travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

“This is a slap in the face to the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days and an affront to all Americans," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (R-S.C.) said in a statement Wednesday.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.) sent Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFor the sake of national security, Trump must honor the Iran deal Bernie Sanders’s 1960s worldview makes bad foreign policy DiCaprio: History will ‘vilify’ Trump for not fighting climate change MORE a letter demanding that the U.S. refuse entry to Aboutalebi.

“Hamid Aboutalebi was a major conspirator in the Iranian hostage crisis and has no business serving as Iran’s ambassador to the UN,” Schumer told the New York Post.

“This man has no place in the diplomatic process, and the State Department should flat-out deny his visa application. Iran’s attempt to appoint Mr. Aboutalebi is a slap in the face to the Americans that were abducted, and their families; it reveals a disdain for the diplomatic process and we should push back in kind.”

Harf said the State Department sympathized with those insulted by the nomination.

"Many of those hostages, you know, were State Department people," she said. "And we very much value their service, and we'll keep having that conversation."

But she stopped short of echoing Schumer's characterization of the move as a "slap in the face" and insisted the move would not affect negotiations over Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"I'm not going to describe it that way," Harf said. "Obviously, it's troubling. We'll talk about this with the Iranians. But the nuclear negotiations are separate."

She argued that the U.S. had serious problems with Iranian behavior in a number of realms, including the war in Syria, state-sponsored terrorism and human rights. But, she said, the nuclear issue was "incredibly important" to resolve and viewed as separate from those issues.

"We can only judge them by their actions," Harf said. "On the nuclear issue, they have upheld their commitments. We hope they will continue to."