Concern that Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, might have been linked to the hostage-taking at the embassy was central to judging his application for a visa to attend a September gathering of heads of state in New York, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Monday.

   

Ereli acknowledged that the United States has an agreement with the United Nations to allow officials of member states to travel to its headquarters on UN business.

   

"I will say that we are mindful of headquarters agreements' responsibilities," he told reporters.

 

 "We also take very seriously information that someone has been involved in hostage-taking of American citizens in contravention of international law and international practice"

Adam Ereli, spokesman,
US State Department

"We also take very seriously information that someone has been involved in hostage-taking of American citizens in contravention of international law and international practice."

   

The United States says Ahmadinejad was a leader in the student movement behind the embassy takeover and is trying to determine whether he was himself a hostage-taker, which he and those who took part deny.

   

UN chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said last week that US authorities were obliged to give the Iranian a travel visa under the UN-US agreement.

   

Castro and Arafat

 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Sunday: "We hope the Americans will not make such a big mistake. If the Americans cannot host the UN guests, they do not deserve to have the UN headquarters in their country."

   

Arafat was  prevented from
attending the UN session 

US officials said no head of state had ever been denied a visa to attend such a meeting.

   

Despite the US public posture over Ahmadinejad -- at a time when Washington is also condemning Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons programs -- one State Department official suggested the Iranian leader would eventually get a visa.

   

"We might think long and hard about it, but these types of figures do usually get their visas," he said, citing the example of Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has been to the UN headquarters despite longtime hostile relations with Washington.

   

Washington blocked late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from going to New York more than a decade ago; but he was not representing a sovereign state and so was not covered by the UN agreement, the official added.