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Iranian Official Rejects Charges Of Afghan Expulsions

17 January 2005 -- A senior Iranian official today rejected UN accusations that his country is expelling Afghan refugees and suggested that Teheran might rethink its cooperation with United Nations.

Ahmdad Husseini, head of the bureau for administrative affairs within Iran's Interior Ministry, dismissed reports that Iran is forcibly sending legal Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan. Husseini also said that Iran distinguishes between individuals who arrive in Iran as legitimate refugees fleeing conflict regions in Afghanistan and those entering Iran illegally to seek job opportunities.

But Radio Free Afghanistan has reported -- based on interviews with individuals claiming to have been forcibly deported from Iran -- that Iranian authorities are not drawing distinctions between Afghans with refugee IDs and those who are illegal laborers.

More than 2 million Afghans fled to neighboring Iran following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. An estimated 1 million of them remain in Iran -- many as laborers working on construction projects.