Bush: Iranian leader likely to get U.S. visa
Reuters | August 12, 2005
President George W. Bush said on Thursday Iran's new leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, likely would be granted a U.S. visa to attend a U.N. meeting in New York despite earlier assertions he played a leading role in the 1979 storming of the American Embassy in Tehran.
"We have an agreement with the United Nations to allow people to come to meet and I suspect he will be there to meet at the United Nations," Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch after meeting with his foreign policy and defense teams.
Bush said the United States was still looking into Ahmadinejad's alleged part in the hostage crisis that consumed U.S. President Jimmy Carter -- and the nation -- for 444 days.
The United States says Ahmadinejad was a leader in the student movement behind the embassy takeover and is trying to determine whether he was a hostage-taker, which he and those who took part deny.
"Let me start off by saying that we're still investigating allegations and/or this guy's potential involvement in the hostage crisis," Bush said.
The State Department had suggested it might deny Ahmadinejad a visa to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting of heads of state in New York next month, despite a longstanding agreement to let officials of member states visit headquarters.
NONE DENIED BEFORE
Bush administration officials said no head of state had ever been denied a visa to attend such a meeting. Cuban President Fidel Castro has been to the U.N. headquarters despite longtime hostile relations with Washington.
The United States did block late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from going to New York more than a decade ago, but he was not representing a sovereign state and so was not covered by the U.N. agreement.
Bush's comments about Ahmadinejad's visa came as Washington also expressed a willingness to give negotiations over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program more time before getting tougher with Tehran.
Iran angered the Europeans and the United States by resuming uranium conversion at the Isfahan plant on Monday. Despite U.S. and EU calls that it not restart work there, Tehran broke the U.N. seals on Wednesday and made the facility fully operational.
The State Department said on Thursday Washington would push for Tehran to be reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it did not resume its suspension of sensitive activities.
Bush called the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to demand Iran halt the work "a positive first step" and said his strategy was to work with Britain, France and Germany -- the EU-3 -- "so that the Iranians hear a common voice speaking to them about their nuclear weapons ambitions."
"The world is coalescing around the notion that the Iranians should not have the means and the wherewithal to be able to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior officials.
The resolution adopted by the U.N. nuclear watchdog's board of governors said Iran must resume a full suspension of all nuclear fuel related activities and asked the IAEA to verify Tehran's compliance. It called for a report by September 3 but did not refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.