According to UN diplomats who requested anonymity, the president of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has applied for a U.S. visa to attend a high-level nuclear nonproliferation conference that begins at UN headquarters in New York City on Monday.
Ahmadinejad, it has been reported
, wants to speak at the conference on its opening day. By coincidence or not, that's the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver her remarks at the conference.
If Ahmadinejad is issued a U.S. visa (a done deal if he has, indeed, applied), it will be his fifth trip to New York but the first one outside of the opening session of the UN General Assembly, which usually takes place every September.
Ahmadinejad has addressed the UN General Assembly every year from 2006 to 2009. In September 2007, he also made a controversial appearance at New York City’s Columbia University. He has reportedly requested on at least two occasions to travel outside New York City to meet with Iranian diaspora representatives in the United States, but his requests have been denied by the U.S. State Department.
Foreign dignitaries visiting New York on official UN business are usually confined to a 40-kilometer radius of the greater New York City area.
Ahmadinejad’s efforts to speak at the UN conference are viewed as an attempt to gather support against possible new sanctions in the UN Security Council for Tehran’s refusal to disclose the details of its uranium-enrichment program. Three of the Security Council’s five permanent members -- Britain, France and the United States -- see this program as part of Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons.
The other two permanent members -- China and Russia -- have extensive trade relations with Iran and have traditionally been more reluctant to impose new sanctions.
-- Nikola Krastev