June 25 (UPI) -- Former North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Javier Solana said the United States denied his entry into the country under a visa-waiver program over his visit to blacklisted Iran.
Solana, who also is a former Spanish foreign minister, planned to travel to the United States for an event at the Brookings Institute, a non-profit public policy agency based in Washington, D.C. He was scheduled to speak at the event as a fellow of the Institute.
U.S. authorities rejected Solana's application for entry through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
Citizens of 38 countries can travel to the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. A tightening of requirements in 2016, though, prevented those citizens from using the online VWP if they visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen after March 1, 2011.
U.S. embassy sources in Madrid told El Pais the system automatically rejects applications from people who traveled to those seven countries.
The travelers could enter the United States by obtaining a visa, a more time-consuming process, the U.S. embassy sources added. Solana told El Pais he will complete the paperwork to obtain a visa.
Solana last traveled to Iran in 2013 for the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is part of the country's reformist political sector and a former negotiator in the nuclear deal. By then, he had no official government office.
Solana was one of the first people to promote the Iran nuclear deal as the European Unions diplomacy head.
"I went there to represent all those who had been involved in the negotiations," Solana told Newsweek. "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 ... I need to go because I need to work there, and I'm a professor at various universities."