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Casper Star Tribune - Barrasso Requests Ban on Iranian President

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Location: Cheyenne, WY

Casper Star Tribune - Barrasso Requests Ban on Iranian President


Wyoming's junior U.S. senator is calling on the Secretary of State to prohibit Iran's president from entering the country to attend next week's United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, authored the request to Condoleezza Rice. About a dozen other senators, including U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, signed the letter.

Meanwhile, Barrasso's Democratic opponent in the November election, Gillette attorney Nick Carter, said the letter is a "diversion" intended to shield Barrasso from talking about more pressing national issues, such as the ongoing financial meltdown.

Barrasso's letter calls Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a sponsor of fundamentalist Islam and an enemy of the United States who trains terrorists to fight U.S. troops, threatens Israel and continues to pursue nuclear weapons.

"... We must convey our belief that at this time, Iranian leaders should not be allowed to enter the United States, even under the auspices of the U.N.," Barrasso said in the letter.

"When leaders are openly working against the international community's efforts to address problems of concern, we should not provide them a bully pulpit," Barrasso's letter said.
Ahmadinejad is a critic of the Bush Administration and has questioned the right of Israel to exist, but he insists that his country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Barrasso's request is not unprecedented. The Reagan Administration denied Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a visa to participate at the UN General Assembly in 1988 for his connections with terrorist activities.

Even so, the United States has an obligation to permit Ahmadinejad to attend the U.N. General Council, said Tim Kearley, who teaches public international law at the University of Wyoming College of Law.

In agreeing to host the 2008 UN General Assembly, the United States entered into a treaty that prevents it from inhibiting the transit of officials from UN member states to the UN headquarters building, Kearley said.

In exchange for agreeing to host leaders from around the world, the United States reaps a great deal of international prestige, and even some economic benefits from hosting the General Council inside the country, Kearley said

"So we would be violating this treaty we entered into" if Rice grants with Barrasso's request, Kearley added.

Kearley said that the call for Ahmadinejad's exclusion from the General Assembly is an attractive political gesture because of Iran's continued actions in opposition to U.N. Security Council wishes, but it's also self defeating.

"It's self defeating since (Ahmadinejad) is someone we have to talk to," Kearley said. He represents a country that we have to deal with. That's precisely why these people are invited to the U.N., because they are someone we need to talk with."

Ahmadinejad has been to the United States before, including a visit one year ago during which he gave a controversial speech at Columbia University.

The Bush Administration refused direct contact with Iran until earlier this year, when the policy was reversed and Rice traveled to Iran for talks.

Carter, the Democrat running against Barrasso in November, said international law allowing Ahmadinejad to attend the U.N. General Council is well established, and Barrasso's efforts are meaningless.

"I think Sen. Barrasso should spend less time grandstanding on such topics that are clearly against international law and spend more time concentrating on the financial market crisis that some of his votes have contributed to," Carter said.

Enzi's Democratic opponent, University of Wyoming instructor Chris Rothfuss of Laramie, said Ahmadinejad is clearly not a "good guy," but the United States can't be in the business of refusing visas for people coming to the United Nations.

"If we are recognizing Iran as a U.N. Member state, then we have to allow their representatives to come to the United States for U.N. business," Rothfuss said.

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