UK & World News
Iran Appoints American Hostage-Taker To UN
A US senator has vowed to bar Iran's appointment of a former hostage-taker involved in the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran as the country's ambassador to the United Nations.
Sen Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and Tea Party favourite, said he was outraged that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had selected Hamid Aboutalebi.
Mr Aboutalebi was a member of a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, beginning in November 1979.
Mr Cruz proposed legislation that would prevent Mr Aboutalebi from obtaining a visa to enter the US.
He said: "It is unconscionable that in the name of international diplomatic protocol the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard of the status of diplomats when they were stationed in his country.
"This person is an acknowledged terrorist."
A US State Department spokeswoman called Mr Aboutalebi's nomination "extremely troubling".
Marie Harf said: "We are taking a close look at the case now and we have raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran."
Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for Iran's Mission to the United Nations, has not commented on the ambassadorial appointment.
Mr Cruz said that despite Mr Aboutalebi's insistence that his involvement in the Muslim student group was limited to translation and negotiation, he is still prominently featured on the group's website honouring those involved in the embassy takeover.
Fellow Republican Senator John McCain described it as "really kind of an in-your-face action by the Iranian government, sending a guy who was responsible for the absolutely, totally illegal incarceration of American citizens".
The move comes as the Obama administration continues to press for a settlement on Iran's nuclear programme.
In November the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia reached a deal with Iran to curb Tehran's programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief.
On Tuesday, Mr Cruz questioned the Obama administration's continued talks with Iran in light of Mr Aboutalebi's appointment.
He said Mr Rouhani's decision "should serve as a wake-up call that the regime in Tehran is directed by the same policies that resulted in the hostage crisis in the first place".
"This nomination should dispel illusions" that Mr Rouhani is negotiating with the US in good faith, Mr Cruz added.