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Iran: Khatami expresses readiness for Iraqi refugees

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From RFE/RL Iran Report Volume 6, Number 10
President Khatami said during a 5 March meeting with visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Lubbers that Iran is ready to cooperate with international organizations in assisting Iraqis who might be displaced by a possible war in their country, IRNA reported. Khatami said U.S. military intervention in Iraq would create more problems than it would solve and would result in long-term instability. Lubbers is also scheduled to visit the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, where an influx of refugees is expected, dpa reported, citing the UNHCR's media-relations office.

The Iranian government has set up camps no more than 10 kilometers inside the country to help refugees while preventing them from traveling too far into Iran. Iran claims that it already hosts some 2.55 million refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.

Lubbers also met with Foreign Minister Kharrazi on 5 March, according to IRNA. Lubbers told Kharrazi that the UN would do its utmost to help the refugees if war breaks out.

Lubbers met with Interior Minster Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari on 6 March, according to IRNA. Impending refugee flows from Iraq appeared to be on his mind when Musavi said, "Given that Iran does not have the potential to accept more refugees, we do not intend to give refuge to any more possible applicants in the border areas." He advised, "Some refugee camps should be established by the UN inside the territory of the refugees' countries of origin to enable other states to dispatch their joint relief aid to the refugees."

Lubbers described Iranian refugee preparations during a 6 March press briefing. He said, according to IRNA, "The UNHCR and Iran would set up 10 refugee camps on the no-man's-land near the border with Iraq for settling 200,000 to 250,000 possible refugees, mostly southern Iraqi Shia." Lubbers added that three sites are almost ready and that work on the others is continuing. (Bill Samii)

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