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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK
Iran readies for Iraqi war refugees
Afghan refugees try to cross into Iran
Millions of Afghan refugees remain in Iran

Iran has warned that more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees could flee towards its borders in the event of an American attack against President Saddam Hussein's regime.

A senior Iranian official responsible for refugees, Ahmad Hussaini, said the country's interior ministry had set up a national crisis centre to cope with a possible influx of refugees.

He said that no Iraqis would be allowed to enter Iranian territory and that camps would be set up inside Iraqi territory on the border area.

Afghan refugees at an Iranian border camp
A flood of refugees from the Gulf War caught Iran unprepared
During the Gulf War in 1991, Iran was taken by surprise when more than one million Iraqi Kurd and Shia refugees fled across its border.

Now it appears that Iran has made extensive preparations to provide humanitarian aid to Iraqi refugees in the event of a new war in the region.

Mr Hussaini says his country has already put in place relief facilities to deal with up to 50,000 Iraqi refugees.

He added that Iran could provide accommodation and other facilities for up to 900,000 people.

Economic burden

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has apparently promised to take care of up to 100,000 refugees in Iran.

Iran says providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of refugees is a huge burden on its economy.

There are already several million refugees from Afghanistan and other countries living in Iran.

Iranian leaders say one of the reasons for their opposition to a US attack on Iraq is the human consequences of such a campaign, which in their view will affect Iraq's neighbours more than anybody else.


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