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Iran's refugee camps ready in 10 days for those fleeing war in Iraq

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Teheran (dpa) - Ten camps in Iran, planned for sheltering possible Iraqi refugees, will be ready within ten days, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, said Thursday at the end of his two-day visit to Iran.

In line with the Iranian expectations, Lubbers predicted that between 200,000 to 250,000 of the total 500,000 possible Iraqi refugees would head towards Iran where they will be accommodated in the 10 camps.

While praising the positive Iranian approach towards a renewed refugee influx from Iraq, the UNHCR head said that Iran is consistent in keeping its borders closed to Iraq.

Iran is prepared to shelter up to 200,000 Iraqi refugees in 10 camps at the northwestern, western and southwestern borders to Iraq, but refugees will not be allowed inside Iran and are to be kept in buffer zones on Iraqi soil.

But Iran will allow the U.N., Red Crescent, Red Cross and other international agencies to use Iranian soil to transfer aid and personnel to Iraq.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Iran sheltered about 1.3 million Iraqi refugees for four months but this time it wants the U.N. to bear the costs.

But Lubbers indicated that UNHCR funding may fall short as it has received only one third of the planned donor contribution of 60 million dollars.

Lubbers arrived in Teheran Wednesday as the likelihood increased that the United States would launch a military strike against Iraq, which would lead to in an influx of refugees to Iran.

Lubbers met Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and visited the border city of Ahvaz in southwest Iran, where many refugees are expected from southern Iraq.

Lubbers said the UNHCR expects most of the refugees to come from south Iraq as Iraqi Kurds have an autonomy in North Iraq protected by U.S. and British forces.

dpa fm cu?AP-NY-03-06-03 1455EST

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/06/2003 14:55:31

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