In a report from Kabul, the newspaper quoted Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, the speaker of Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament, as saying that Iran’s ambassador to Kabul told Afghan lawmakers last week that they should not ratify the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement.
The report said the Iranian ambassador, Abolfazl Zohrehvand, threatened to deport Afghan refugees and migrant workers if Afghanistan’s parliament ratifies the deal.
Signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai in Kabul last week, the deal outlines what military and political role the U.S. will play in Afghanistan after most foreign forces withdraw in 2014.
Muslimyar, the speaker, told The Wall Street Journal that he rebuffed the request made by the Iranian ambassador. “I told him that we are an independent country, and it’s up to us with whom we want an agreement and with whom we don’t,” Muslimyar said he told Ambassador Zohrehvand.
Other Afghan lawmakers voiced similar sentiments, the Journal said. Khalid Pashtoon, a parliamentarian from Kandahar, called the Iranian demand a “very clear interference” in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Pressure from Iran, Mr. Pashtoon added, would ensure the accord’s ratification. “Now it’ll be 100% endorsement,” he said.
Mr. Karzai accepted Zohrehvand’s credentials just last month. The Iranian Embassy in Kabul and Iran’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to requests to comment, according to the Journal.
At a briefing on Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said he wasn’t aware of the situation but that the U.S. urged “Iran to play a constructive role.”
Tehran has made no secret of its displeasure with the US-Afghan accord. Ramin Mehmanparast, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said Sunday that the presence of U.S. forces was destabilizing the region, and that peace could be achieved in Afghanistan only by the complete withdrawal of foreign troops.
Abdul Samad Hami, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of refugees and repatriation, said Iran is home to around one million registered Afghan refugees, and a “moving number” of undocumented migrants.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans go to Iran to seek work as manual laborers, often in construction, agriculture and other low-wage jobs.
Hami claimed both Iran and Pakistan have used the presence of Afghan migrants and refugees as a “political vehicle” to pressure Kabul.