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THE WORLD

U.S. will accept more Iraqi refugees

It agrees to resettle about 7,000 people and help fund U.N. efforts.

February 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration agreed Wednesday to increase the number of Iraqi refugees allowed into the country and to pay more to help Iraq's Arab neighbors cope with the human tide fleeing violence and economic hardship in their country.

The decision to allow about 7,000 Iraqis to come to the United States answers mounting political and diplomatic pressure on the administration to do more to remedy the consequences of its 2003 invasion of Iraq. Only 202 Iraqis were allowed in last year.

The administration also said it immediately would contribute $18 million toward a worldwide resettlement and relief program. The United Nations has asked for $60 million from nations around the world.

The U.N. estimates that 3.8 million Iraqis have fled their homes since the war began. About 2 million have left Iraq, mostly for neighboring countries, and 1.8 million have relocated in Iraq, according to the U.N.

Only about 600 Iraqis have been allowed to settle in the United States, while the refugee flow has overwhelmed Arab neighbors such as Syria and Jordan.

The U.S. proposal also includes plans to offer special treatment for civilians in Iraq whose cooperation with U.S. military forces puts them at risk. Expanding visa programs for those Iraqis would require legislation, according to the State Department.

The United Nations wants to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees this year. Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, called the U.S. pledge "a relevant contribution."

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