Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran's selection as envoy to the U.N., has drawn sharp criticism in the United States because he belonged to a student group that seized
The Obama administration, eager to avoid disruption of the international nuclear negotiations with Iran that resumed Tuesday in Vienna, has called Aboutalebi's selection "extremely troubling," but it stopped short of barring his entry.
White House Press Secretary
Though Iranian officials have called the appointment definitive, Carney described it as a "potential selection, as I understand it, that has not been formally made."
"The legislation passed by the Senate underscores just how troubling this potential nomination would be," he said.
Officials said they had not ruled out denying Aboutalebi a visa but that they hoped Iran would pick a new nominee so that wouldn't be necessary.
The U.S. government has the prerogative to reject ambassadorial candidates to serve at the U.N. headquarters in New York, though it is rarely exercised.
Aboutalebi, 57, a pro-reform diplomat aligned with President
He has played down his role in the 1979 hostage-taking, saying he served in the group primarily as an interpreter. He was a 22-year-old student at the time.
But the students' seizure of the U.S. Embassy and its diplomats remains a scar on U.S.-Iranian relations.
Some Iran analysts were surprised that Rouhani apparently failed to anticipate that Aboutalebi would galvanize strong U.S. opposition.
"This was just a blooper," said Cliff Kupchan, an Iran specialist at the Eurasia Group risk-consulting firm. He said the government in Tehran, which still resents the
The nuclear talks, which are aimed at sealing a deal to prevent Iran from gaining the ability to build a nuclear weapon, have made progress since they resumed in February, negotiators say. But hard-liners in Iran and the United States are strongly suspicious of a potential accord, and critics could try to use the dispute over Aboutalebi to undermine the talks.
In Vienna on Tuesday night, U.S. and Iranian officials held a 90-minute meeting separate from the seven-country talks that are underway.
The bilateral session was "useful and professional," said a senior