U.S. expels 2 Iranian guards at United Nations
Pair accused of taking 'sensitive' photos of New York landmarks
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Two Iranian security guards at the Iranian mission to the United Nations have been expelled from the United States, the State Department said Tuesday.
The two were seen taking still photos and video of New York City subways, buses and tunnels, and were expelled last weekend for conduct inconsistent with their official duties, the State Department said.
But an Iranian official said: "Like anybody who visits New York, they visit tourist sites -- sightseeing and videotaping themselves, looking at the Metropolitan Museum [of Art], places like that."
Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman at the State Department, said the guards were expelled after being observed by the FBI "videotaping various locations from New York deemed to be sensitive."
Ereli called the activity a "recurring problem, as this was the third time the United States has required the departure of Iranian security guards for videotaping and photographing landmarks in New York.
"In the case of the Iranian mission to the United Nations, it represented a unique pattern that raised concerns of law enforcement," he said.
"And it was our view that, based on previous behavior and what we were seeing, that this was the appropriate action to take."
Ereli added that Iranian diplomats had been previously told about U.S. concerns.
"This was the option that we were left with," he said.
An official at the Iranian mission confirmed that two security guards have left the United States but said "it is not accurate that they have been videotaping anything illegal."
He added that their photography "was nothing of the sensitive type that the U.S. contends."
CNN's Richard Roth, Liz Neisloss and Elise Labott contributed to this report.