Thursday, April 10, 2008
The United States will press the government of Iraq to increase its financial support for the almost 2 million Iraqi refugees now in Syria and Jordan, a senior State Department official said yesterday.
Ambassador James B. Foley, the department's coordinator for Iraqi refugee issues, returned last week from the Middle East and Europe, where he tried to raise money for the displaced residents, whose costs this year are estimated at $900 million.
Foley told reporters yesterday that the $25 million Iraq pledged last year was "a symbolic amount," adding that he "did not disagree" with Arab League representatives who told him the Iraqi government has the main responsibility "and the means to respond to the needs of the refugees."
The United States "will continue to engage in candid dialogue with Iraq" on the issue, Foley said, though he did not stop in Baghdad last week because of fighting there. "These are their fellow citizens, and the government is not bereft" of funds, he said.
The $900 million goal, set by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, is running short by almost $400 million, Foley said. The United States, he added, has contributed $208 million and might add $80 million to the effort in coming months.
-- Walter Pincus