Iran's UN Mission sent a letter to the Security Council president Thursday officially requesting permission for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak during its discussion on a resolution that would impose new sanctions on Teheran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a council diplomat said.
Iranian state television quoted government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham on Sunday as saying Ahmadinejad wanted to take his case for pursuing nuclear power before the council as it considers the sanctions resolution.
The letter informed South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the current council president, that Ahmadinejad would head the Iranian delegation, the council diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the letter has not yet been made public.
Richard Grenell, spokesman for the US Mission to the United Nations, would only confirm that the US has received official visa requests for an Iranian delegation.
He refused to disclose any details, but the council diplomat said Iran asked for visas for 38 people to accompany Ahmadinejad. The letter gave no date for Ahmadinejad's visit, the diplomat said.
Kumalo said Tuesday that under Security Council guidelines, if a member state has an issue before the council and requests to appear before the Security Council, "this must be considered."
"That's why I've said I think it would be difficult for us to deny the president of Iran, or the minister of Iran to appear, because we spend all this time fighting on a resolution ... so maybe somebody else needs to join, too, in the fight," Kumalo said.
Iran has rejected UN demands that it halt enrichment, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at producing energy. The US and its European allies are concerned its real aim is to produce nuclear weapons.
Earlier Thursday, Ahmadinejad called the Security Council an "illegitimate" body and said any new sanctions imposed on his country would only stimulate it to be self-sufficient and further develop nuclear technology.
Acting US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, reacting to that comment and the possibility of the Iranian president addressing the council, said: "I find it ironic that a president who's quoted today saying that he tears up Security Council resolutions and has no respect for what the council does, is interested in coming and speaking to the council."