Reuters: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has cancelled his visit to New York to address the U.N. Security Council because of delays in granting visas to his entourage, Tehran’s U.N. ambassador said on Friday.
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has cancelled his visit to New York to address the U.N. Security Council because of delays in granting visas to his entourage, Tehran’s U.N. ambassador said on Friday.
Ahmadinejad had wanted to address the council before it votes on imposing new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. The meeting is expected to be held on Saturday, although it has not been officially scheduled yet.
The United States issued visas in two batches on Friday at its embassy in Berne, Switzerland, but Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif said it was too late.
“There was no time for the visas to be sent to Tehran in time for the president to be able to fly to New York,” Zarif told Reuters. But he said Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who had received his visa early on Friday, would take a commercial flight to New York to address the council.
Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, challenged Zarif’s statement.
“Too late for what?” Grenell said. “The meeting hasn’t even been scheduled yet. How can they say they are too late to come if the Security Council has not given a date and time for the event?”
Zarif said some of the visas were issued early in the morning in Berne but the remainder not until near 6 p.m. local time, which did not leave enough time to take the passports back to Tehran in time for the president’s plane to take off.
In Berne, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said some 38 visas had been issued, including one for Ahmadinejad, early on Friday, and an additional 40 for the entourage late in the day once all the paper work was completed.
“The applications were incomplete but they were completed this morning,” said Daniel Wendell, press attache at the embassy. “The two batches amount to about 75 visas,” he said. “That’s a pretty sizeable group.”
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta)