Iranian President Gets Terror Law Exception

Aug. 31, 2005 -- -- The State Department says Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a terrorist, but will grant him a visa anyway, ABC News has learned.

The State Department has issued a legal finding that Ahmadinejad is ineligible for a U.S. visa because of section 212(a)3(b) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which says anyone with terrorist ties cannot be granted a visa.

But U.S. officials have decided to waive section 212, so that Ahmadinejad can get a limited visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly, which begins on Sept. 12. A senior State Department official tells ABC News the waiver will be granted because of the limited nature of his visit. Ahmadinejad won't be allowed to travel more than 25 miles beyond U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Furthermore, denying a visa to a head of state would violate the agreement that put the U.N. headquarters in New York.

According to the State Department, no head of state has ever been denied a visa to attend the U.N. General Assembly, although Yasser Arafat was denied a visa in 1988.

The Bush administration has been under tremendous pressure from the veterans of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis to deny Ahmadinejad a visa. Many of the former hostages say Ahmadinejad was one of their captors. An extensive U.S. investigation, however, has uncovered no evidence to prove Ahmadinejad had any role in the hostage crisis. Evidence or no evidence, the legal finding says the Iranian president has terrorist ties.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl and Jacqueline Shire contributed to this report.