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Iran Allows Afghan Refugee Camps, U-S Aid Shipment Passage - 2001-10-18


Iran will now allow Afghan refugee camps to be built just inside its borders, and for U-S food aid for Afghanistan to be delivered through Iran.

The head of Iran's Red Crescent Society, Ahmad Ali Norbala, says his country's permission for the camps in the "no-man's land" just inside its border came after the Afghan Taleban refused Iran's idea of building the refugee camps inside Afghanistan.

Iran's decision was praised by the Astrid Heiberg, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. She called it a good solution, which facilitates relief operations. She added that the fighting in Afghanistan and the coming winter has raised concerns that a large number of Afghans will head for the border with Iran.

Regarding Iran's decision to let U-S relief shipments pass through that country, U-N World Food Program official Marius de Gaay Fortman says 45-thousand tons of U-S wheat will be shipped to Iran in November for delivery to the refugees, with up to 100-thousand additional tons of wheat in December.

Despite Iran's change of position regarding refugee camps on its territory, its borders with Afghanistan remain closed, as are Pakistan's. That has prompted the U-N High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, to again call on countries neighboring Afghanistan to open their borders to civilians fleeing the Afghan conflict. The high commissioner decried what he called xenophobia (fear of foreigners) and intolerance by some nations with regard to refugees.

Iran and Pakistan already host some four million Afghan refugees. The two countries closed their borders with Afghanistan shortly after the September 11 terror attacks on the U-S, citing security and other concerns.

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