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Iranian deputy FM under fire after threatening to expel Afghan refugees

Abbas Araghchi has faced calls for his resignation after making the remarks [Corbis News]

Date of publication: 9 May, 2019

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Iran's deputy foreign minister has come under fire for threatening to expel Afghan refugees in response to US sanctions.

Iran's deputy foreign minister has come under fire after threatening to expel the country's 3 million Afghan refugees in retaliation for US sanctions.

Abbas Araghchi said on Wednesday that if US sanctions bring Iran crude exports to zero, "it is possible that we ask our Afghan brothers and sisters to leave Iran" because hosting them annually costs the equivalent of several billion dollars.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday slammed Araghchi's remarks, saying: "We wish you had not made the statement."

Some reactions were stronger: "Firing Araghchi is the minimum response to his huge mistake," a prominent hard-line political activist, Ali Naderi tweeted.

Others called Araghchi's remarks "throwing words under pressure" and accused him of using Afghans as "leverage" for receiving concessions.

Washington reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions on Iran last year after withrawing from a landmark nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Nuclear inspectors have certified that Iran has stuck by the terms of the deal.

But US President Donald Trump, surrounded by hawkish aides, has been progressively ratcheting up sanctions pressure on Iran, demanding it also rein in its conventional military missile programme and pull its forces and proxy fighters out of other Middle East countries.

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