Threatening response, Iran suggests new US visa law violates nuclear pact

"We will implement them so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran," Kerry says of recent changes in visa requirements.

December 28, 2015 18:50
1 minute read.
Iranian US

Iranian passports with U.S. visas are seen at the U.S. embassy in Bern, Switzerland, March 23, 2007. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Iran’s foreign ministry threatened on Monday to respond in kind to a US law adding new travel restrictions on Iranian nationals seeking entry into the United States, warning the law contravenes the nuclear deal it brokered with world powers last summer.

The law exempts those who have traveled to or hold dual nationality from Syria, Iraq, or countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism by the State Department from visiting the US visa-free.

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European Union officials have criticized the law, and have threatened to respond with a reciprocal policy which would restrict the travel of Iranian Americans to Europe.

The new measure passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the US Congress, and was praised as a compromise by US President Barack Obama when he signed it into law.

While the White House considers the new provision imperfect, they do not consider it a violation of the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which allows the US to continue treating Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.

"Any steps taken outside the agreement are unacceptable to Iran, and Iran will take its own steps in response where necessary," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari told a televised news conference when asked about the law.

He said a committee tasked with overseeing the deal would be responsible for ordering the Iranian response to any breaches. Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi, who heads that committee, has also said the visa law contravenes the deal.

In a letter sent last week to Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the new law does not contradict the JCPOA. He offered to further “clarify” the matter in extended talks.

“The recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JCPOA commitments,” Kerry wrote. “We will implement them so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran.”

The nuclear deal is reaching a critical stage – implementation, once Iran completes a series of tasks toward dismantling its nuclear infrastructure.

Once Implementation Day is reached – expected sometime in January or February – Tehran will receive its sanctions relief.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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