Iran warned Washington on Saturday against taking the United Nations “hostage” by rejecting visas for Iranian delegates led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a nuclear conference in New York.
“The issuing of visas to the delegation and officials of any country coming to participate at the UN in the United States is obligatory on the part of American officials,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.
“The US government has no right to use the issuance of visas as a tool against other countries. The US government… should not take the UN and the UNSC (UN Security Council) hostage.”
The hardline Ahmadinejad is set to propose reforms to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), one of his senior advisers was quoted on Saturday as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
“The president will outline important proposals for reforming the NPT,” Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said, adding that the visit also “aims to defend the right of the Iranian nation.
“With his presence in the NPT review meeting, the president will frankly inform the world about Iranian nation’s stance.”
The United States said on Friday it has begun approving visas for Iranian applicants for the review conference.
“We’re working through them,” US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said when asked about the status of the Iranian team’s visa applications.
“Some of them have been issued. Not all,” he said, adding that he did not know whether Ahmadinejad’s was among those approved.
The Iranian president and East Timor’s Jose Ramos-Horta are likely to be the only heads of state at the NPT conference, Crowley added.
A senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity that Iran had asked for no less than 70 visas for its delegation.
Animosity between the United States and Iran has grown as Washington has stepped up efforts to levy new sanctions against the Islamic republic for pursuing its nuclear programme which Washington suspects masks a weapons drive.
Tehran denies the charge.
US lawmakers on Friday denounced Ahmadinejad’s plans to attend the New York conference.
“This is preposterous, and allowing it to happen will make a mockery of the effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorist groups,” 14 Republican senators wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“There is simply no compelling reason for Ahmadinejad to be allowed to enter the United States,” they said. “The US government has the legal authority to deny Ahmadinejad’s request and bar his entry.”
In April at an international nuclear disarmament conference hosted by Tehran, Ahmadinejad lashed out at the current NPT structure.
He called upon “independent countries” to review the NPT, of which Iran is a signatory and as such considers it has the right to enrich uranium, the most controversial part of its nuclear program.
“The presence of those possessing weapons, especially the US, prevents the drawing up of a fair treaty,” he said.
Mottaki, meanwhile, criticised Washington on Saturday for “undermining” the NPT treaty.
The conference must take place in a “transparent atmosphere… and the conference must concentrate… on the issue of (nuclear) disarmament,” he said at a news conference.