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Ex-Nato chief refused visa waiver to US because of Iran trips

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Javier Solana: ‘Some people have to visit these complicated countries to keep negotiations alive’

By Sam Jones in Madrid, The Guardian

he former Nato secretary general Javier Solana has been refused a visa waiver to enter the US because of his past trips to Iran, one of the countries blacklisted by US Department of Homeland Security.

Solana, who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal during his time as the EU’s foreign policy chief, had been due to speak at an event at Washington’s Brookings Institution, but learned he would not be able to enter the US after trying to apply for an electronic visa waiver.

Under the system, those who have visited any of seven blacklisted countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – on or after 1 March 2011 are barred from receiving the waiver and have to apply for a visa. The rules predate Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on five Muslim-majority countries and North Korea.

“It’s a bit of a mean decision,” Solana told Spain’s Antena 3 TV channel on Monday. “I don’t think it’s good because some people have to visit these complicated countries to keep negotiations alive.”

Solana, who has also served as Spain’s foreign minister, said he had been invited to Iran in 2013 to attend President Rouhani’s inauguration.

“I went there to represent all those who had been involved in the negotiations,” he said. “I’ll see what I can do to fix this. It’s a computer – an algorithm – and if you’ve been in Iran lately, they take you out of the system. It’s like you don’t exist visa-wise, because you can’t visit the country.”

Solana said he hoped to resolve the situation soon as he had professional commitments to honour in the US: “I need to go because I need to work there and I’m a professor at various universities.”

Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last month, despite strenuous European objections. Iran has said it will decide in the next few weeks whether to pull out of the deal, signed in 2015, and start enriching uranium capable of making a nuclear bomb.

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