US Says Iranian President's Visa Being Rushed To Tehran

Friday, March 23rd 2007, 12:20 pm
By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran complained Friday that the United States had not issued a visa for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend a U.N. Security Council debate on Saturday. Washington denied the allegation, saying the president's passport was on its way to Tehran.

The Iranian leader wants to address the Security Council before it votes on a resolution that would expand sanctions on Iran over its refusal to cease uranium enrichment _ a process that can make nuclear reactor fuel, or the fissile material for a nuclear warhead.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state-run radio that ``despite going through administrative procedures and (U.S.) promises in the media, the government of the United States has not yet issued a visa to our president.''

The confusion made it unclear whether Ahmadinejad would be able to leave Iran early enough to reach New York in time to address the Security Council.

Daniel Wendell, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, said Ahmadinejad's and other Iranian officials' passports had been handed over in Bern on Friday. Another 31 other passports for support staff were to ready later in the day. The passports would then be taken by courier to Tehran in time for the Iranians to fly to New York.

Mohammad Mir Ali Mohammadi, the press secretary for Iran's U.N. mission, said Ahmadinejad would likely make the Security Council session only if it were held late Saturday.

The United States says Iran's nuclear efforts are cover for a weapons program, but Tehran insists it only wants electricity. The Security Council imposed limited sanctions on Iran in December for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment.