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Rouhani, Zarif May Not Attend UN If US Visas Are Not Issued Soon

FILE - Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, arrives to address the 72nd UN General Assembly on September 20, 2017 in New York.
FILE - Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, arrives to address the 72nd UN General Assembly on September 20, 2017 in New York.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani may not take part in the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, as no visa has been issued to him and his entourage as of midday Wednesday September 18, Iranian official news agency IRNA reported.

Rouhani was slated to deliver a speech at the UNGA meeting on Monday September 23 and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was planning to leave Tehran for New York on Friday 20 September.

According to IRNA, the visit to New York by Rouhani and Zarif may be cancelled if they do not get their visas "within a few hours."

The Associated Press quoted President Donald Trump as having said later on Wednesday that he would give visas to Rouhani and Zarif if it was up to him.

According to Fars news agency, in 2012 the United States denied visas to about 20 Iranian government officials including two ministers hoping to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Under the UN-US Headquarters Agreement, the U.S. must grant visa to heads of states to attend the General Assembly meetings. However, in a few cases U.S. officials have denied visa requests. The US rejected a visa request by Yasser Arafat to attend meetings of the General Assembly in 1988 on the basis that he posed a threat to U.S. security.

In 2013 the U.S. was under pressure to deny a visa to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as in 2009 and 2010, the International Criminal Court issued warrants for his arrest, charging him with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

At least three U.S. officials have blamed Iran for an attack on major Saudi oil facilities on Saturday, although Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the strikes on same day.

On Tuesday, other U.S. sources confirmed that attacks were launched by missiles and drones flying from Southern Iran somewhere near the northern mouth of the Persian Gulf.

The attacks halved Saudi Arabia's oil output and affected the global oil market.

Tehran has denied involvement in the attacks, saying that putting the blame on Iran was part of a plan for "actions in the future," but did not explain further.

President Rouhani on Wednesday once again denied Iran's involvement in the strikes on Saudi Arabia's oil interests, adding that Yemenis have reacted to Riyadh's aggression.

Rouhani said that the United States has shifted "from maximum pressure to maximum accusation," adding that U.S. accusations were "baseless."

In another development, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has officially warned the U.S. Interest Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran against attributing the attacks to Iran.

IRNA has quoted a letter handed over to the U.S. Interest section as having stressed that "If an action takes place against Iran, Tehran will react immediately, and Iran's reaction will not be limited to where the threat has originated from."

The statement is consistent with Iran's asymmetrical warfare strategy which is based on responding to threats at a time and place the adversaries do not expect.

Unlike U.S. and Saudi Arabia, other countries such as France are still not sure about the source of attacks on the Saudi oil establishments. The French Foreign Minister said on Tuesday that Paris still does not have any evidence about the origin of the strikes. Japan's Defense Minister reacted similarly on Wednesday saying he has not yet seen any evidence that would prove Tehran's involvement, while Yemen's Houthis have assumed responsibility for the strikes.