On Saturday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported that the US had denied visas to 20 Iranian government officials, out of the 160 visas requested by the Iranian delegation two months ago, so they could attend this week’s UN General Assembly, Fars said. It gave no reason for the rejection, but many Iranian officials are subject to travel bans under sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.
Fars named two of those banned from going to New York as members of Ahmadinejad’s staff: Mohammad Shaikhan, in charge of communications and information, and Mohammad Jafar Behdad, in charge of political affairs. The US State Department had no immediate comment on the matter.
But Ahmadinejad, a regular at the assembly since he took office in 2005, is scheduled to give his final speech at the GA Wednesday and will address a meeting on the “rule of law” on Monday.
The Iranian president, whose second and final term in office ends next year, has used previous UN speeches to defend a nuclear program he insists is peaceful and to make verbal attacks on Israel, the US and Europe. He has also questioned the historical truth of the Holocaust and cast doubt on whether Islamist hijackers were really responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler sent letters to both UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking them to bar Ahmadinejad from entering the US and the UN.
Allowing Ahmadinejad to address the UN General Assembly is a “cruel parody of law and justice that will put us on the wrong side of history,” Cotler said. He noted that there are principles and precedents in international law and US conduct that would exclude “war criminals, such as President Ahmadinejad,” from entering the US, let alone addressing the UN.