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Western Union suspends services in Afghanistan

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By Tom Arnold

LONDON (Reuters) - Western Union Co, the world's largest money transfer firm, has suspended services in Afghanistan, but is committed to resuming operations once conditions permit, it said following the crisis sweeping the country.

The flow of funds from migrant workers overseas are a key lifeline for many Afghans and have helped the economy of one of the world's poorest nations weather years of violence and instability.

Due to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, current bank closures, and constraints on its agents' ability to operate, Western Union said it had suspended its services from Aug. 18, 2021, until further notice.

"Western Union understands the urgent need people have to receive funds, and we are committed to resuming operations for our customers in Afghanistan as conditions permit," it said in the statement to Reuters.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and we will keep all appropriate stakeholders apprised of further developments."

Remittances to Afghanistan reached $789 million in 2020, around 4% of gross domestic product (GDP), the World Bank estimated, down from $829 million in 2019.

Remittance flows, international grants, subdued imports and resilient exports helped Afghanistan's current account surplus reach 14.2% of GDP in 2020, the International Monetary Fund said in June.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)

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