Iran Determined to Defend its Territory against Refugee Influx
Iran will "defend its territory" against any repercussions of a US reprisal for the September 11 terrorist bombings, a high-ranking official announced on Sunday.
"Whatever happens, we are determined to defend our territory and we will now allow any infringement of the borders of Iran," Hossein Zare-Sefat told the state news agency IRNA.
Zare-Sefat, deputy governor general of Khorassan province bordering Afghanistan, said any exodus of Afghan refugees was likely to be towards Pakistan or Iran.
Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks on the United States, is believed to be in hiding in Afghanistan, making it a leading candidate for Washington's threatened retaliation.
"We are thinking of keeping the Afghans along the border on Afghan territory in case of a mass influx," said Zare-Sefat. Iranian authorities "have the necessary equipment, such as tents, water and foodstuffs".
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has also "promised to cooperate in case of Afghan immigration", he added.
On Saturday, Iran's interior ministry announced it was sealing off the country's border with Afghanistan to prevent an influx should the United States make a retaliatory strike.
"Military and police forces have been deployed along the eastern border to prevent the influx of would-be Afghan refugees into Iran in the aftermath of probable US attacks," the ministry said.
Iran has been at work in recent years to shut down the 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan in a bid to stem the crush of Afghan refugees as well as a growing trade in drugs smuggling.
Iran, which was swift to condemn the suicide plane bombings in New York and Washington, is already home to around two million refugees from the long-running conflicts in Afghanistan -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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