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Iran Names New UN Ambassador After Controversy Over Initial Candidate

Iran has named career diplomat Gholamali Khoshroo as its new ambassador to the United Nations.

Khoshroo, a former deputy foreign minister, is currently serving as Iran's ambassador to Switzerland, according to the country's official news agency, IRNA.

IRNA reported that Khoshroo, who studied sociology in Tehran and in New York, served at the United Nations as Iran's ambassador and deputy representative from 1989 to 2005.

The nomination comes 10 months after the United States, which hosts the UN headquarters, denied a visa for Tehran's initial candidate, Hamid Abutalebi.

Washington said in April that Abutalebi was not a "viable" choice because of his suspected role in the hostage taking of U.S. diplomats in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Abutalebi, a veteran diplomat, said he wasn't in Tehran at the time and that he only served as a translator for the hostage takers that seized the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans for 444 days.

Following the hostage-taking crisis, the United States broke off diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic.

Abutalebi's nomination led to an uproar in the United States, where lawmakers passed a bill to deny a visa to any UN representative "who has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity against the United States and poses a threat to United States national security interests."

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in April.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said on January 28 it still objected to the denial of a visa for Abutalebi, adding it would keep pursuing the matter through the UN.

Tehran had defended the choice and signaled that it would not name a new candidate for the post.

Khoshroo's nomination was criticized by a senior lawmaker, who referred to it as a "retreat" by the government of President Hassan Rohani.

Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, the spokesman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the parliament had emphasized that Iran should not back off from its choice.

Naghavi was quoted by the hard-line semi-official Fars news agency as saying, "for now it is only our government that is retreating from its stances as oppose to the Americans."

Naghavi added that it would be a "disaster" if Iran's team would act in a similar fashion in the nuclear negotiations with the West.

The ongoing talks are aimed at finding a lasting solution to the nuclear crisis and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

Hard-liners have in the past accused Rohani's government of making too many concessions in the negotiations with the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia.

After missing two self-imposed deadlines last year, the six powers and Iran agreed to seek a political framework agreement by March and a comprehensive deal by June 30.

With reporting by Golnaz Esfandiari in Washington and IRNA
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