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Iran Says Zarif Leaving For UN In NY On Friday

ranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on September 2, 2019.

Tehran, Sept 19, 2019 (AFP) -

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is to leave for New York early Friday to attend the UN General Assembly, his ministry said, after reports he may not be granted a visa.

"Foreign Minister, @JZarif is leaving for New York early on Friday morning to attend the 74th session of UNGA," ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

"The minister usually departs a day or two before the President," he added, seemingly confirming that both had received visas from the United States.

State media had reported the day before that Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping the assembly if US visas were not issued.

As the host government, the United States is generally obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.

But as Iran's top diplomat, Zarif was sanctioned by the US on July 31 -- ahead of the UN General Assembly debate due to begin on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world body had been in contact with the U.S. "to solve all outstanding visa problems in relation to delegations".

Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of "maximum pressure".

Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear programme.

The latest escalation had the US blaming Iran for Saturday attacks on two Saudi oil installations as well as a string of recent assaults on shipping in sensitive Gulf waters, all denied by Iran.

The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday