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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Visas Required for Foreigners After Hand-Over, Iraqi Official Says

Temporary permits will not be issued at Baghdad's international airport or border posts.

June 20, 2004|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — In a bid to bolster security, visas will be required for all foreigners visiting Iraq after the interim government assumes power June 30, an Interior Ministry official said Saturday.

Foreign visitors "without exception" must apply for visas at Iraqi embassies abroad, said Hadi Muhanna, director of the Interior Ministry's travel department. That does not include the 150,000 Americans and other foreign soldiers deployed here, Muhanna said.

He said there would be no exceptions for foreign journalists, experts engaged in reconstruction projects, Americans or residents of neighboring Arab states.

Temporary visas will not be given at Baghdad's international airport or at any of the country's land border posts, Muhanna said.

"These are the same rules that are followed in other countries," he said.

Since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime last year, visitors have been able to enter Iraq at border posts and airports without visas by presenting passports.

Iraqis say that the relative ease of entry has led to an influx of foreign fighters, criminals and intelligence agents whose presence threatens security. Iraq maintained a strict visa policy during Hussein's rule.

Muhanna said the visa requirements were necessary to combat instability. Iraqi authorities have long blamed foreigners for attacks, including sabotage of oil pipelines and a spate of car bombings.

Interior Minister Falah Nakib previously said that foreigners would be admitted on 15-day tourist visas that could be extended to one month. Long-term foreign residents would be able to obtain permits to stay for as long as five years, and there would be special visas for diplomats and official delegations, he said.

Once in Iraq, visitors will have to report their presence to the Interior Ministry within a week, Muhanna said.

Foreigners who are in Iraq when the new regulations take effect will not be required to apply for visas before leaving, he said.

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