Iran rounding up Afghans for expulsion

TEHRAN, July 29,1998 (AFP) - The Iranian authorities have been carrying out systematic arrests of Afghans without visas in northeastern Iran in recent days, Afghan sources said Wednesday.

"For several days, the police have stepped up their operations to hunt down illegal aliens in Mashhad and in Khorasan province," they said.

Those who were caught were placed in camps while awaiting expulsion to Afghanistan, the sources said.

For two years, the authorities have been tightening security in provinces bordering Afghanistan to prevent infiltration by illegal aliens. Iran has also been preparing to send back those who entered illegally.

Nearly two million Afghans are believed to be scattered across several Iranian provinces.

More than a million of them have left Iran since the fall of their country's communist government in April 1992.

About 500,000 Afghans receive assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since the Sunni Moslem fundamentalist Taliban militia seized power in Afghanistan in 1996, the expulsions of illegal aliens from Shiite Moslem Iran had all but halted.

Iran, which continues to recognize the previous Afghan government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, supports the anti-Taliban forces active in Afghanistan.

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