By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hardline U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday they were concerned about Iran's selection of a U.N. envoy linked to the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, and called on the Obama administration to do what it can to prevent him from taking up the post in New York. "That really has got to be a serious question, as to whether or not the State Department gives ... a visa to him," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters. President Hassan Rouhani has chosen Hamid Abutalebi, a veteran diplomat seen as a moderate, to be Iran's new ambassador to the United Nations. People who know Abutalebi said he was part of the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, which occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979, although not among the core group of student activists inside the embassy who captured and held the hostages.
ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT (United States) (AFP) - The US military may send a warship to the Black Sea and take other steps to reassure anxious allies in Eastern Europe after Russia's intervention in Ukraine, a defense official said Tuesday. "Some of the proposals that are being considered would be potentially putting another US warship in the Black Sea," a senior defense official told reporters travelling with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel. An American destroyer was deployed to the Black Sea earlier in the crisis over Ukraine but departed last month.
President Barack Obama has so far made no decision to free US-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to boost hopes of extending peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the White House said Tuesday. The Israelis have repeatedly asked Obama and previous US presidents to release Pollard, who is serving his sentence in North Carolina for passing US secrets on Arab and Pakistani weapons to Israel during the mid-1980s. Sources in Israel said a deal was emerging in talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Israeli government in which a group of Palestinian prisoners would be freed and peace talks would get a reprieve into 2015 in return for Pollard's release.
China should press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons if Beijing wants to change US troop plans in the region, a US official said Tuesday. Danny Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, acknowledged that a growing China has been unhappy with efforts by the United States to strengthen defense cooperation with allies Japan and South Korea. "The most direct way for China to affect those military deployments and those strategic alliance plans is by applying its leverage to North Korea to bring about a decision on the part of Pyongyang to choose the right path," Russel told a conference call organized by the Asia Society. China is the closest ally of North Korea and has voiced growing frustration over the regime's nuclear program, although US experts widely believe that Beijing does not want to risk the collapse of Kim Jong-Un's regime.