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Iran's Zarif Faces Death Threats Over Nuclear Deal

TEHRAN — Both at home and abroad, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has become the public face of his country's willingness to sign a deal with the West to limit its nuclear program.

The Vienna accord, inked in July, has also made Zarif the main target of Iran's religious hardliners, whom he confirmed Wednesday have threatened him directly. "Whatever I do, there is a cost for me in the country," Zarif said in an interview with the reformist daily Shargh, admitting that he had "been threatened, though a shooting is unlikely."

The foreign minister suggested that verbal attacks, including complaints that he had shaken hands with President Barack Obama, were intended to "strike at" the policies of reformist President Hassan Rouhani, and its "most potent" arm, the foreign ministry.

Yet Zarif also described as "perfectly understandable" hostility to any rapprochement with the West and the United States given the "great injustices" inflicted on Iran in the past.

He also used the interview with Shargh to explictly rebut claims that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was displeased with the nuclear deal, adding that his support should be "a reference" for all politicians.

Zarif said Khamenei was "certainly" informed during the negotiations, though he "did not interfere (in the) details."

Photo: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua via ZUMA

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Donetsk People's Republic holds referendum on joining Russia

Irene Caselli, Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Russia's proxies in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions announced that referendums on joining Russia had begun that Ukrainian and Western officials have denounced as shams.

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For four days, "voting" will be held at people's homes "for security reasons," Russian state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti wrote. On the last day of the "referendums," on September 27, locals will be asked to go to "polling stations."

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