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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Stay away, says Iraq tourist boss
The ancient ruins of Babylon
The ancient ruins of Babylon are one of Iraq's treasures
Iraq's tourism chief, Ahmed al-Jobori, has urged visitors to stay at home until the violence there ends.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr Jobori warned tourists that "Iraq could be a one-way trip".

But the newspaper says a small number of determined adventure-seekers are planning to visit the war-torn country.

Mr Jobori, an employee of the US-appointed interim Iraqi government, has himself received death threats, and keeps his daily routine secret.

With the country beset by a guerrilla war, and bombings and kidnappings almost daily, the journal accepts Mr Jobori's warning "might seem obvious".

Al-Malwiyya in Samarra
Al-Malwiyya in Samarra was a top tourist spot before the war
But it cites Phil Lalani, a hotel owner from Blackpool in the UK, and his girlfriend, Katrina Copsey, as examples of travellers determined to visit Iraq and "do something groundbreaking".

They are going in the care of a former British special forces officer and will be protected at all times by armed guards.

But Mr Jobori, a former dissident, says he advises tourists not to consider visiting Iraq until the situation improves.

"For now, I advise our friends around the world to be patient until the terrorism ends," he says.

"We can keep tourists safe from animals. We can keep tourists safe from natural disasters. But we can't keep tourists safe from unknown enemies, chaos and violence."

Once the violence has subsided, Mr Jobori says he believes Iraq's natural and historical attractions - and the palaces and prisons of the Baathist regime - means tourism will boom.

"Tourism can be our river of gold," he is quoted as saying.

"Our oil will eventually run out, but, for better or worse, there will always be people who want to see Iraq."

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