U.S. denied Iran official visa for U.N. meeting: envoy

UNITED NATIONS Fri Jun 26, 2009 12:38pm EDT

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Tehran's U.N. envoy on Friday accused the United States of denying Iran's first vice president and members of his delegation visas to attend a three-day U.N. conference on the global financial crisis.

"I am indeed delivering this speech on behalf of Dr. (Parviz) Davoudi, first vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who along with members of the Iranian delegation was not able to participate in the conference," Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told the U.N. General Assembly.

"Their entry visas were not issued by the host country," he added, referring to the United States.

It was not clear whether the alleged visa denial was related to the Iranian government's crackdown on demonstrators who have been protesting for nearly two weeks against what they say was a rigged presidential election in which hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide victory.

A U.S. official said he was looking into Khazaee's statement.

Washington cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980 during a hostage crisis in which Iranian militants occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held a group of U.S. diplomats and officials captive for 444 days.

As the host country of the U.N. Secretariat in New York City, Washington has followed a policy of setting aside bilateral disputes with individual countries regarding visas for members of U.N. delegations.

Although the United States has continued to grant the visas, it does sometimes refuse entry to Iranian government officials and professionals.

Last year, Tehran said the United States denied visas to members of Iran's blind weightlifting team who were hoping to attend an international tournament in Miami.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau)

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