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Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Moderate' Rohani appoints hostage taker as UN ambassador

'Moderate' Iranian leader Hassan Rohani has appointed Hamid Aboutalebi, a 1979 hostage taker at the United States embassy in Tehran, as Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.
The Iranian government has applied for a U.S. visa for Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s former ambassador to Belgium and Italy, who was a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line, a group of radical students that seized the U.S. embassy on Nov. 4, 1979. Imam was an honorific used for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Relations between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. and its allies are beginning to emerge from the deep freeze that began when the self-proclaimed Iranian students overrun the embassy and took the hostages. The State Department hasn’t responded to the visa application, according to an Iranian diplomat.
A controversy over Aboutalebi’s appointment could spark demands on Capitol Hill and beyond during this congressional election year for the Obama administration to take the unusual step of denying a visa to an official posted to the UN. It also could hamper progress toward a comprehensive agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and five other world powers are seeking to negotiate with Iran by July 20.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani chose Aboutalebi to serve at the UN, which is headquartered in New York City on international, soil after the interim nuclear deal was forged last Nov. 24. 
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Aboutalebi has said he didn’t take part in the initial occupation of the embassy, and acted as translator and negotiator, according to an interview he gave to the Khabaronline news website in Iran.
“On a few other occasions, when they needed to translate something in relation with their contacts with other countries, I translated their material into English or French,” Aboutalebi said, according to Khabaronline. “I did the translation during a press conference when the female and black staffers of the embassy were released, and it was purely based on humanitarian motivations.”
He referred to the release of some embassy staff members during the first few weeks of the crisis in November 1979. 
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Although Aboutalebi downplays his involvement, his photograph is displayed on Taskhir, the website of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line. Taskhir can mean both capture and occupation in Persian.
According to Mohammad Hashemi, one of the students who led the occupation of the embassy, Iran’s revolutionary government sent Aboutalebi and Abbas Abdi, another architect of the occupation, as emissaries to Algiers. The Algerian capital at that time was a mecca of third-world liberation movements, including the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for the Iran’s UN Mission in New York, declined to comment.
I wish it were otherwise, but I can't see Hussein Obama denying a visa to an Iranian diplomat. Anyone disagree?

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