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It was recently reported in the New York Times that the US government is refusing to issue a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, who was recently nominated as Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. Since the UN headquarters is in New York, this presumably would prevent Aboutalebi from carrying out his duties.

The article says:

Under a 1947 law that established the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, the United States is obligated to issue visas to diplomats assigned there, even those it finds objectionable. But the United States has reserved the right to turn down people based on concerns over security, terrorism or foreign policy issues.

It's unclear from this in what sense the US is "obligated" to issue visas if they also "reserve the right" not to do so.

Have there been previous incidents where the US has denied a visa to a UN-assigned diplomat? What was the eventual outcome? Does this happen often?

Update: The New York Times has published a followup article. Iran is calling the US's action "unprecedented". The article also claims:

In most previous instances when the United States objected to the entry of a diplomat, the application was quietly withdrawn. But the United States is not known to have ever denied a visa to an ambassador before.

That would answer my question if it's accurate.

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    Excellent question! The US must have to give visas to nations it doesn't have diplomatic relations with or it would defeat the purposes of the UN. A few years ago Iranian diplomats came to the US and bought out a Cosco to get around the luxury item import ban. Maybe these are the "objectionable" actions. – Razie Mah Apr 12 '14 at 21:20
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    @RazieMah: In this case, the objection is that Aboutalebi was involved in the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran. – Nate Eldredge Apr 12 '14 at 21:31
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    Ignore first comment-although it was quite the humorous diplomatic faux pa involving setting up a tent that looked like a harem to the US public, etc. Your article says why they are denying him. Because he was involved in terrorist acts against the US. An equally good question would be if any nation ever tried to assign a terrorist as a UN diplomat, but I think so probably. – Razie Mah Apr 12 '14 at 21:36
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    @Chad: That's not quite the same, though. If country X posts a diplomat to their embassy in the US, it's understood that the US has the power to expel them at will, and this happens all the time. It only affects the diplomatic ties between the US and X. But expelling or refusing a UN-posted diplomat affects the relations between X and the whole rest of the world, and it could be argued it takes unfair advantage of the UN being located withing the US's borders. – Nate Eldredge Apr 15 '14 at 15:31
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    @Chad: I see. If the previous incident really did involve Russian diplomats posted to the UN, rather than to the Russian embassy in Washington or another consulate, then please do post it with references as an answer. – Nate Eldredge Apr 15 '14 at 15:40
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If a UN diplomat is defined as being a official chosen by a UN member state to represent the country at the UN, then Hamid Aboutalebi's case is the first of its kind from the US.

As reported in the New York Times article and other sources, Washington has just signed a new bill, titled 'A bill to deny admission to the United States to any representative to the United Nations who has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity against the United States and poses a threat to United States national security interests.', which is also known as 'Public Law 113-100' and 'S.2195'. From what I gather from the bill, it gives the US jurisdiction to deny certain UN diplomats visas if they are found to be guilty of activities against the US. This should mean that theoretically, before the bill, the US did not have such jurisdiction and thus did not carry out such an action. Therefore, it can be assumed that this case has had no precedents.

The example of Arafat mentioned by Amejel is a nice mention. However, as mentioned by Amejel, this is not a precedent for Aboutalebi's case, since Arafat was not a UN diplomat as defined above. Another good mention is Narenda Modi's US visa ban prior to his election as Prime Minister of India. He, however, was never a UN diplomat in the capacity as mentioned previously.

Thus, It can be said that this is an unprecedented case and that the US does not often deny visas to UN diplomats

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