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Cablegate: Iran Protests Host Country Delay in Visa Issuance

VZCZCXYZ1529
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUCNDT #0201/01 0651730
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051730Z MAR 08
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3845
INFO RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 0292

UNCLAS USUN NEW YORK 000201

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

IO/UNP - S. EDMONDSON, CA/VO/P/D - C. MUNTEAN, M. GOLDBECK,
CA/VO/L/C - T. SMITH, NEA/IR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OFDP CVIS IR
SUBJECT: IRAN PROTESTS HOST COUNTRY DELAY IN VISA ISSUANCE
FOR IRANIAN OFFICIALS COMING TO UN OFFICIAL MEETING

REF: USUN NEW YORK 00194

1. (U) Summary and Action Request: USUN seeks Department's
guidance in replying to Iran's diplomatic note (text in
paragraph 5) which protests the USG's delay in issuing visas
to Iranian delegates who were to attend the 52nd Session of
the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) February 25 -
March 7, 2008. Following a similar Cuban protest (reftel),
the Iranian PermRep has requested that the Chair (Cypriot
PermRep) of the UN Committee on Relations with the Host
Country "bring the issue to the attention of the United
Nations relevant bodies." USUN will be expected to provide a
written reply for the record, which will also be circulated
as a Committee document. Both documents will likely be
discussed/examined at the Committee's next meeting. End
Summary and Action Request.

2. (U) The Iranians had raised the delays in visa issuance to
delegates attending last year's session of the Commission on
the Status of Women (CSW), and are raising the same issue
this year. The meeting appears on the UN Calendar of
Conferences and Meetings and is being held as scheduled
February 25 - March 7 at UN HQ in NYC. Iran considers the
USG's failure to issue the visas in a timely manner as
arbitrary, unjustifiable, politically motivated, and suggests
that the time has come for the international community to
consider a change of venue for UN meetings in view of the
repeated failure of the Host Country to abide by its
obligations under the Headquarters Agreement to facilitate
the participation of member states in UN-related meetings.

3. (SBU/NOFORN) Iran MUN provided USUN on February 29 the
names of seven delegates who had not received visas in time
to attend the CSW meeting. Their names are as follows:
Mrs. Touba Kermani, Iranian Cultural Counselor in Greece;
Mrs. Fatemeh Alia, Member Islamic Consultative Assembly
(Parliament);
Mrs. Tahereh Daniali, Advisor to Minister and DirGen on
Women's Affairs and Rural Development, Ministry of
Agriculture;
Mrs. Masoumeh Beigom Taheri, DirGen on Int'l. Relations,
Center for Women and Family;
Mrs. Maryam Shareri, interpreter;
Mrs. Tahereh Nazzari, DirGen on Women's Affairs and Human
Rights, MFA;
and Mrs. Afsaneh Nadipour, Deputy Director, Department of
Human Rights, MFA.
According to the CCD, the first five had submitted their
applications only as recently as February 19, less than a
week before the CSW meeting began. USUN is prepared to reply
to Iran MUN that these individuals applied late, that the
Iran MUN never sought USUN assistance regarding these visas
(even though USUN has repeatedly encouraged Iran and all
Missions that experience delays in visa issaunce to contact
us, and especially since Iran claimed to have had
difficulties obtaining visas for individuals attending this
same meeting last year).

4. (SBU/NOFORN) The last two delegates submitted their
initial applications in early January. Even taking into
account that Iran's Embassy in Bern failed to supply the
required diplomatic note with the applications, and even
though Iran did not provide the note until a full week after
Amembassy Bern reminded Iran to do so, the note was finally
provided o/a January 29. However, the clearances regarding
these two applicants were provided to Amembassy Bern only on
February 29, five workdays after the two week meeting had
already begun. Amembassy Bern may be able to provide
additional details that would assist in providing a reply to
the Iranian complaint.

5. (U) Begin text of Iran diplomatic Note No. 064 dated
February 27, 2008 --Excellency,
Upon instruction from my Government, I would like to convey
our dismay over the refusal by the Host Country of entry visa
(sic) to the women delegation (sic) of the Islamic Republic
of Iran to attend the Fifty-second session of the Commission
on the Status of Women (25 February - 7 March 2008). Due to
this arbitrary, unjustifiable and politically-motivated act
of the Host Country, which not only contravenes the
obligations of the U.S. Government contained in the
Headquarters Agreement but also violates the provisions of
the Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in
their Relations with International Organizations of a
Universal Character of 14 March 1975, the delegation of the
Islamic Republic of Iran has been deprived of its right to
attend the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women
and to contribute to its deliberations, for the second
consecutive year.

Participation at the Fifty-second session of the Commission
on the Status of Women was a precious opportunity for active
engagement of the Iranian women to exchange views and
experiences with their counterparts. However, due to the
failure of the Host Country to issue entry visa (sic) for
them, this valuable opportunity was taken away from the
Iranian delegation.

The women delegation (sic) of the Islamic Republic of Iran
had made necessary preparation for the active participation
in the Meeting, especially by preparing practical and
action-oriented reports on the allocation of resources to the
advancement of women in various fields, and had wished to
bring those innovative proposals to the attention of other
participants.

Time has come for the international community to consider the
change of the venue of the United Nations meetings in view of
the repeated failure of the Host Country to abide by its
obligations under the Headquarters Agreement to facilitate
the participation of member States in the United Nations
related meetings.

The Islamic Republic of Iran expresses its strong protest
over the repeated failure of the Host Country to honor its
legal obligations, and expects the United Nations to take
effective measures to protect the sovereign right of Member
States and ensure their participation in the United Nations
meetings and events. The Host Country shall be urged to take
appropriate measures to respect its obligations in accordance
with the Headquarters Agreement and other relevant
international instruments, prevent the recurrence of such
failures in the future and ensure the unimpeded entry into
the United States of official representatives of Member
States.

I would appreciate if you could bring this issue to the
attention of the United Nations relevant bodies, including
the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.--End text

6. (U) Action Request - USUN requests that Department provide
the text of a reply to the Iranian note, particularly in
regard to the delay in visa issuance to the two applicants
who applied in January, so that the reply can be circulated
to member states as a Host Country Committee document.

7. (SBU/NOFORN) Comment: Iran's formal protest, coupled with
Cuba's recent complaint (reftel), puts USUN in a difficult
position. When USUN is apprised of a delay in U.S. visa
issuance to a foreign government official or designee coming
to attend an official UN meeting in New York, we are often
able to request and obtain expedited Security Advisory
Opinion (SAO) clearances so that the foreign official is
issued his/her visa in time to attend the official UN
meeting. Although we have repeatedly asked Missions
encountering problems to contact us whenever a visa is
delayed, some do not do so (Iran, Sudan) and others do so
inconsistently (Cuba). Their failure to do so may be
intentional (e.g., to embarrass the U.S. in the Host Country
Committee) or may result from the countries' UN Mission not
being informed of the visa delay by their counterparts in
capital.

8. (SBU/NOFORN) Comment continued: In almost every case the
delay in visa issuance is due to the lengthy SAO clearance
process, and USUN has repeatedly advised the affected UN
Missions that applicants from those countries should apply
well in advance. The comment section in reftel applies here
as well. While no one suggests that these countries would
support U.S. policies if their officials' visas were issued
more expeditiously, we believe that, even when the delay
might be justified (e.g., as in this case by the submission
of many applications less than a week before the beginning of
the UN meeting), the delay in issuance creates a negative
perception by others, including among our allies at the UN,
that the U.S. is selectively using delays in visa issuance to
harass or punish the governments of countries the U.S.
dislikes. While no one will give serious thought to Iran's
suggestion that the venue of UN meetings be moved from New
York as a solution to delays in the issuance of U.S. visas
(also advocated by Venezuela at a Host Country Committee
meeting because of problems encountered by diplomats arriving
or departing JFK), Iran's formal diplomatic note will, like
the Cuban note, add to the critical mass of frustration that
could result in an unfavorable UN Legal Counsel opinion
holding that USG delays in visa issuance do constitute a
breach by the U.S. of our Host Country obligations. End
comment.


KHALILZAD

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