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US OKs visas for Iranian officials to attend UN General Assembly

The US has granted permission for top Iranian officials to enter the country for next week’s UN General Assembly, according to a report Thursday.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif were both issued visas, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations told Reuters.

On Wednesday, Iran’s state-run news agency said that Rouhani was considering boycotting the annual gathering of world leaders if he and Zarif didn’t get visas “in the next few hours.”

In an interview with CNN before the visas were issued, Zarif accused the US of engaging in “acts of childish animosities” by withholding the documents.

The Iranian complaints came amid allegations by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran committed an “act of war” by launching devastating drone and cruise missile attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Under a 1947 “headquarters agreement,” the US is generally required to let foreign diplomats enter the country on UN-related business, but American officials say they can deny permission on grounds including security and terrorism concerns.

In July, the US imposed strict restrictions that limit Iranian officials, diplomats and their families to traveling between JFK airport, UN headquarters, the Iranian mission, the Iranian ambassador’s residence and a six-block area in Long Island City.

They had previously been allowed to roam anywhere within a 25-mile radius of Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.

The restrictions initially targeted just Zarif, with a State Department official calling him “a mouthpiece of an autocracy that suppresses free speech” and accusing him of exploiting American freedoms “to spread malign propaganda.”

Also Thursday, a Pentagon spokesman said that although “all indications” pointed to Iran as being “in some way responsible” for Saturday’s airstrikes, the US military would wait for Saudi Arabia to complete an investigation before assigning blame, The Hill reported.

“We’re supporting their investigation, we have teams on the ground working with them, but we’re not going to get ahead of their conclusions,” spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

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