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Syria accuses Iraq of abandoning refugees

AFP

Tuesday, January 19, 2010    

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) -- Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad accused Iraq on Monday of failing to provide financial aid to Iraqi refugees living in Syria since the US-led invasion of their country.

"Ever since the Iraqi refugees began arriving in Syria in 2003, the Iraqi government, despite having the means, only gave 15 million dollars to help its citizens in Syria," Mekdad said.

"This is a small sum in comparison with the number of Iraqi refugees who number more than 1.5 million in Syria, and with the enormous capacity of the Iraqi government," he told a conference organised by the UN refugee agency.

Mekdad called for the creation of "better conditions" to allow the refugees to return home, saying this would be "the best solution" for the displaced.

"The refugees were displaced temporarily and this was the result of the American occupation of Iraq," he added.

Mekdad also urged the international community to step up efforts to help the refugees.

Millions of Iraqis have fled their country since the US-led invasion, most of them seeking refuge in neighbouring Syria and Jordan.

The United Nations says around 1.5 million sought refuge in Syria and around half a million in Jordan.

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