The U.S. says Iran's potential nomination of a new United Nations ambassador who was a hostage-taker during the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran is "extremely troubling," but stopped short of saying it would deny him a visa.
"We're taking a close look at the case now, and we've raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran," State Department deputy spokesman Marie Harf said of Hamid Aboutalebi, who was a member of a radical Muslim student group who seized the took over the embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Last month, the Iranian government applied for a visa for Aboutalebi, who has also served as ambassador to Belgium and Italy. At the time, Bloomberg News quoted an Iranian diplomat as saying the State Department had not responded to the visa request.
The possibility of Aboutalebi's appointment has raised concern on both sides of the political aisle, with New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer and conservative Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz among those who have demanded he be barred from living and working in the United States, according to The Associated Press.
"This man has no place in the diplomatic process," Schumer said in a statement, according to the AP. "Iran's attempt to appoint Mr. Aboutalebi is a slap in the face to the Americans that were abducted, and their families. It reveals a disdain for the diplomatic process and we should push back in kind."
Cruz said the appointment of Aboutalebi would amount to a "deliberately insulting and contemptuous."