President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff has welcomed the publication by critics of a list of alleged dual nationals in the Iranian president's administration, dismissing it as lacking evidence.
Earlier, the government had officially denied there were any high-level officials with foreign citizenship or permanent residency.
"We are delighted that they have published the list," Mahmoud Vaezi said, adding, "The list shows how baseless are the allegations."
He pointed out that the list is merely based on guesswork and is not accompanied by any hard evidence, “Therefore, the list shows the allegations are devoid of any hard evidence".
Iranian hardliners have periodically raised the issue of dual citizenship among Rouhani officials as a tactic to pressure him and his administration.
Masoumeh Ebtekar, in charge of women’s affairs in Rouhani’s administration earlier also dismissed rumors about her being a dual national calling it a "lie."
Ebtekar’s son lives in the United States. She was the spokesperson of the students who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, less than a year after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
Following heated debate over the dual nationals in the Rouhnai's Administration, a hardline member of Majlis (parliament), Javad Karimi Qoddoussi, said last Tuesday that he would publish the list of the dual nationals prepared by the parliament's Investigation and Probe Committee.
Hours after the MP's warning, several websites published a list of 71 persons, among them many former and current officials, university lecturers, members of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as their close relatives, introduced as dual nationals.
The case of top managers with dual citizenship initially triggered a heated debate after the head of Iran's National Bank (Bank Melli), Mahmoud Reza Khavari fled Iran in 2011, following news of his involvement in a $2.6 billion embezzlement scandal.
During the presentation of a parliament Investigation and Probe Committee report on dual citizenship in August 2018, it was announced that a "top official" in a "very high and important position" has British nationality. The list itself was never published.
A hardline MP and member of the Committee, Abolfazl Torabi insisted that one of the country's top officials has been naturalized as a British citizen while studying in Scotland. This was seen as an obvious broadside against Rouhani who studied in Scotland.
Another hardliner lawmaker and cleric Mojtaba Zonnour also insisted that Rouhani's son had British and Canadian nationality. A Rouhani's aide dismissed the claim as unfounded.
Nevertheless, in an interview with the pro-reform daily Etemad, Zonnour went further and claimed that President Barack Obama granted 2,500 green cards to Iranians (families of the elite) to curry favor with Tehran's nuclear-negotiating team.
Zonnour pointed out that only thirty to forty of the children of top Iranian officials are currently "studying" in the United States, while the majority are "wasting Iranian public funds living "extravagant lives" there.
The claim was widely reflected in the right-leaning media in the United States, and Fox News presented it in a "special report."
However, former Obama administration officials dismissed the claim.
But the controversy did not end. Relatives of Americans detained in Iran asked the Trump administration to end visas for family members of prominent Iranian officials last December, according to NBC News.