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Jordan closes border to Palestinians fleeing Iraq

Written by: Staff

AMMAN, Mar 20 (Reuters) Jordan has closed its border with Iraq to prevent the entry of Palestinians fleeing persecution and sectarian violence in its eastern neighbour, witnesses said today.

They said Jordanian authorities, fearful of a large influx from among the 34,000 Palestinian refugees estimated to be living in Iraq, closed the border on Sunday after a busload of Palestinians arrived.

The refugees are now in a camp in no man's land between Jordan and Iraq, where hundreds of Iranian Kurds and Palestinians lived for more than two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Most of the Kurds were moved last year to a safer area in northern Iraq. About 150 Palestinians were later moved to Ruweished camp, 60 km inside Jordan, and cannot leave the enclosed area.

Some Palestinians in Iraq with family ties in Jordan are seeking entry, but Amman says it cannot absorb a new influx.

An official from the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said it had sent staff to the desolate border area to assess the Palestinians' plight.

''We are assessing on the ground the situation of 89 Palestinians including 42 children who are now stranded...they are fleeing persecution in Iraq,'' UNHCR spokeswoman Yara Sharif told Reuters.

The U N body says about 23,000 Palestinians are registered in Baghdad, many of whom fled their homeland after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Palestinians fear being swept up in security offensives in Iraq against insurgents behind suicide bombings that have killed thousands of people.

Reuters SY DB2300

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