WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama signed into law on Friday a law banning diplomats access to the UN if they have been involved in espionage or terrorist activity against the United States or its allies.

The amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act concludes a debate in the White House over how to respond to Iran’s nomination to the UN of a former revolutionary involved in the taking of American hostages.

“No individual may be admitted to the United States as a representative to the United Nations, if that individual has been found to have been engaged in espionage or terrorist activity directed against the United States or its allies,” the president said in a statement released by the White House.

Hamid Abutalebi, Iran’s choice for ambassador to the UN in New York, was involved with the student group responsible for the 1979-81 hostage crisis in Tehran, which precipitated the Islamic Revolution. Fifty- two American hostages were held for 444 days.

“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our nation,” Obama said.

The White House said that the act, passed by Congress and swiftly signed by Obama, was rooted in precedent set by George W. Bush.

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