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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 11:10 GMT
UN welcomes US Iraq refugee plan
Internal refugees in Baghdad
Millions have been displaced internally and externally in the war
The United Nations has welcomed US plans to grant up to 7,000 Iraqi refugees asylum over the next year.

Antonio Guterres, who heads the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), described the plans as "a very good step in the right direction".

The number represents only a fraction of the thousands of people given refuge by countries neighbouring Iraq.

The US has pledged $18m (9.2m) to the UNHCR to help the millions of people who have fled Iraq since the war began.

The US move has been prompted by criticism over the number of refugees it has taken in so far - some 463 since the 2003 invasion.

'Huge problem'

"The dimension of the problem is so huge that nothing is ever enough," said Mr Guterres.

"But I think it is a very good start, a very good step in the right direction."

In Syria: 1,000,000
In Jordan: 750,000
In Egypt: 80,000-130,000 (estimate)
In Lebanon: 40,000
Internally displaced: 1,800,000
Source: UNHCR

The UN estimates that some two million Iraqis have fled the country.

About one million are living in Syria and up to 750,000 in neighbouring Jordan, UNHCR says.

Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh said the number proposed by the US paled into insignificance compared with Jordan's intake.

"Seven thousand Iraqi refugees is just 1% of the number we have," he said.

UN appeal

The 7,000 refugees would move to the US from countries they have already reached.

US state department spokesman Sean McCormack said the figures was a "target", not a ceiling.

The plan would also afford special treatment to those in Iraq who were at risk of sectarian attack through providing the US with information.

Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey said the increase in the US refugee quota reflected a change in the situation on the ground, following the attack on a Shia mosque in Samarra a year ago.

"It really was not until after the Samarra bombing ... that the sectarian violence began to reach a level that there was significant outward movement," she said.

The UN has called for $60m (30.5m) from nations for a global resettlement programme.

Map of Iraqi migration

The mass of refugees trying to leave Iraq

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