Iran Calls New U.S. Visa Law ‘Breach of Nuclear Deal’

DUBAI (Reuters) —
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, during their talks in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. The two are holding talks in Moscow expected to focus on the implementation of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, as well as international efforts to mediate the conflict in Syria. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that a new U.S. law putting visa restrictions on Iranians and those who had visited Iran would, if implemented, breach a nuclear deal Tehran had struck with world powers earlier this year.

The new measure passed by the U.S. Congress will prevent visa-free travel to the United States for people who have visited Iran or hold Iranian nationality.

The measure, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Friday, also applies to Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and was introduced as a security measure after Islamic State terror attacks in Paris and an attack in San Bernardino, California.

Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim theocracy staunchly opposed to Sunni radicalism espoused by groups like Islamic State, says its inclusion on the list is intended to undermine the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.

“If the Congress law is implemented as it is, it would definitely be a breach [of the JCPOA],” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency, speaking at a joint press conference with his Mongolian counterpart, Lundeg Purevsuren.

Zarif said he had raised the issue with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at their meeting in New York this month and also in several e-mails in the last 10 days, hoping that “these measures stop any obstacle in implementation of the JCPOA.”

Citizens of 38 countries, most of them in Europe, are eligible for waivers under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Under the new restrictions, citizens who have visited Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan in the last five years, and those who hold dual nationality with one of those countries, are excluded.

In a meeting with French Senate President Gerard Larcher in Tehran on Monday, Zarif called the new U.S. legislation discriminatory and asked Europeans to oppose the law that was “against their independence.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to Zarif on Saturday to assure him Washington remained committed to the JCPOA, noting that the White House can waive the new requirements in individual cases.

Iran has been promised a lifting of international sanctions hobbling its economy once it has restrictions on its nuclear program in place as stipulated by its deal with the world powers.

Iranian officials have said the visa measure will adversely affect bilateral relations. Some suggest the measure is effectively a new sanction against the Islamic Republic that could jeopardize the nuclear deal.

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