Hassan Rouhani landed in New York Monday for the UN General Assembly, but the Iranian leader won’t be allowed to see much of the Big Apple while he is here.
Iran’s president is subject to the same strict travel restrictions imposed on staff at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in July, diplomats said.
Under the restrictions, Rouhani cannot venture far from the UN headquarters, which sit on the East River on the eastern side of Manhattan island.
The US government has granted him special authorisation to stay at a hotel, however.
Rouhani is due to address the General Assembly and hold a press conference on Wednesday.
His visit comes during heightened tensions between arch-foes the US and Iran and amid fevered speculation about whether he will meet with president Donald Trump.
Foreign officials have been known to take a bit of time out from the UNGA by doing some shopping or taking a stroll in Central Park, but those are not options open to Rouhani.
The Iranian leader is limited to an area bound by First Avenue, where the UN headquarters are, and East 42nd street to the south and East 48th street to the north.
Similar limitations have been imposed on foreign leaders not to America’s liking in the past, such as the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, a UN official said.
The United States had dragged its heels on granting visas to members of the Iranian delegation, prompting criticism from several countries and forcing the UN to intervene.
As the host government, the US is generally obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year, when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began re-imposing sanctions in a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign.
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear programme.
Iranian state media said last week that Rouhani and his delegation could be forced to skip the General Assembly because they were yet to receive their visas.
Rouhani has to travel between JFK Airport and the UN using a tunnel connecting the boroughs of Queens and Manhattan, as the restrictions prevent him from going over any of New York’s bridges.
He is allowed to attend the residence of the Iranian ambassador on the plush Fifth Avenue under an exemption granted to all Iranian mission staff.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from North America