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Iran’s U.N. ambassador choice troubles U.S.

Lara Jakes Associated Press

WASHINGTON The U.S. objected Wednesday to Iran’s anticipated selection of a former hostage-taker at the American Embassy in Tehran as its newest ambassador to the United Nations. But the Obama administration stopped short of saying it would refuse him a visa to enter the United States.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf called the potential nomination of Hamid Aboutalebi “extremely troubling” and said the U.S. has raised its concerns with Tehran. Lawmakers in Congress who usually disagree on everything – ranging from liberal New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer and conservative Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz – have demanded that Aboutalebi be barred from living and working in the United States.

But Harf noted that except in limited cases, the U.S. is generally obligated to admit the chosen representatives of member states to U.N. headquarters in New York.

“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,” Harf told reporters.

Aboutalebi was a member of a Muslim student group that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. He reportedly has insisted that his involvement in the group – Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line – was limited to translation and negotiation.

In a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State John Kerry, Schumer said Aboutalebi’s association with the student group should make him ineligible for a visa or diplomatic immunity in the U.S.

Earlier this week, Cruz questioned the wisdom of negotiating with the Iranian government in light of what he called its “deliberately insulting and contemptuous” choice for U.N. ambassador. Nuclear program negotiations are set to resume next week in Vienna.

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