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US, Iran move to avert firestorm over visa waiver program changes

Intense diplomacy appears to have averted a potential firestorm between the United States and Iran over changes to the visa waiver program.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) is greeted as he arrives at the German Mission to the United Nations in New York, December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid  - RTX1Z6LJ

A potential firestorm with Iran over controversial changes to the visa waiver program by Congress on Dec. 18 appears to have been averted.

Barring nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as well as travelers to these countries in the past five years from visa-free entry to the United States, the changes have been criticized by civil rights advocates, lobbying groups and the European Union. Some of the criticism focuses on Article 29 of the July 14 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which reads, "The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran." Of note, changes to the visa waiver program would effectively bar European, Australian, Japanese and South Korean tourists and business travelers to Iran from visa-free entry to the United States.

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