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U.S. rejects Zarif's request to visit U.N. envoy at hospital unless prisoner freed


The Iranian mission to the United Nations and the United States have confirmed that the latter rejected a request by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit Iran’s U.N.ambassador in a New York hospital where he is being treated for cancer.

In remarks, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Zarif’s request would be granted if Iran released one of several American citizens it had detained. 

“Iran has wrongfully detained several U.S. citizens for years, to the pain of their families and friends they cannot freely visit,” the State Department spokesperson said. “We have relayed to the Iranian mission that the travel request will be granted if Iran releases a U.S. citizen.” 

Meanwhile, Iran’s U.N. mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi said Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi was being treated for cancer in a hospital not far away in Manhattan’s Upper East Side neighborhood. Zarif is in New York for the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. 

The United States and Iran are at odds over a host of issues, including the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. accusations - denied by Tehran - that Iran attacked two Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14 and Iran’s detention of U.S. citizens on what the United States regards as spurious grounds. 

In July, the United States imposed tight travel restrictions on Zarif before a visit that month to the United Nations, as well as on Iranian diplomats and their families living in New York, which Zarif described as “basically inhuman.” They are only allowed to travel within a small area of Manhattan, Queens and to and from John F. Kennedy airport, only after receiving prior approval from Washington.