Iran refuses visa to US badminton players

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Washington, Feb 5 (ANI): US female badminton players, who had been invited by Iran to participate in a tournament to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, will not be able to compete due to refusal of visa by Tehran.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that US players will not take part as handling visa applications are a "time-consuming process".

"They will not participate in the competition," The Washington Post quored Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi, as saying.

The Iranian Badminton Federation, a part of Iran's Physical Education Organization, which is headed by Vice President Mohammad Aliabadi, had invited the eight players, along with four coaches and managers, to participate in a tournament.

"We are disappointed and hope the Americans will forgive us. They should know that the Badminton Federation did all the necessary follow-ups for the visas," said Zahra Tayyebin, head of the Badminton Federation's public relations office.

Thirteen other foreign teams, including squads from Malaysia, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, will take part in the tournament.

The Obama Administration said it was mystified by the visa refusal, especially because the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have expressed a willingness to engage with Tehran.

The badminton team's visit would have been the first cultural exchange under the new administration, but it was arranged as part of a concerted effort by the Bush Administration since 2006 to promote cultural, medical and athletic contacts between two countries that have not had diplomatic relations for three decades. (ANI)

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