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'Not welcome' sign out for Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to come to New York next week to speak at a United Nations conference on nuclear nonproliferation. The US can't really keep him out of the UN, but some are urging hotels to post 'no vacancy' signs.

By Staff writer / April 30, 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reads a message sent by his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and delivered by Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim at the start of their meeting in Tehran Tuesday.

Vahid Salemi/AP

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Washington

Nothing like a planned visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to American soil to get people demanding the US yank the diplomatic welcome mat.

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The Iranian government announced Thursday that Iran’s president, an international lightning rod par excellence, was seeking a US visa to attend a United Nations conference next week on nuclear nonproliferation. Within hours, at least one US senator was demanding he be turned away, and a New York organization was imploring the city’s hotels to deny him a bed.

The bearded, perpetually smiling Mr. Ahmadinejad is widely known – and at least in many Western circles reviled – for denying the Holocaust, denying the existence of homosexuals in Iran, and for touting a nuclear program many in the West believe is aimed at delivering a nuclear weapon. Oh, and in recent months for brutally shutting down Iran’s pro-democracy movement.

UN rogue's gallery

Still, as host nation of the UN headquarters in New York, the US traditionally grants visas to even the most controversial leaders wishing to attend UN events. (Think Fidel Castro, Muammar Qadafi, and in past years Ahmadinejad himself.) But that doesn’t sit well with everybody.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas calls on the State Department to bar Ahmadinejad’s entry and thus to scuttle his plans to address the nuclear conference.

“Allowing it to happen,” Senator Cornyn says in his letter, “will make a mockery of the effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorist groups.”

Short of an outright ban, Cornyn says the State Department should limit the Iranian leader to the UN neighborhood in New York.

Others want to deny Ahmadinejad a good night’s sleep.

'No vacancy'

United Against a Nuclear Iran, a New York group supporting Iran’s isolation over its nuclear program, is calling on New York hotels to refuse rooms to Ahmadinejad and his entourage. The same organization succeeded last September, on the occasion of the UN General Assembly, in pressuring one hotel to cancel Ahmadinejad’s reservation (ostensibly over security concerns) and limiting him to one venue.

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