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U.N.: Syria returning refugees to Iraq

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2003

GENEVA -- Dozens of Iraqi refugees, mostly children, have been expelled from a camp in Syria and sent back to their homeland, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Syrian security forces entered the El-Hol refugee camp in the country's northeast Monday and removed nine adults and 23 children. The group was believed to have been taken to the Iraqi side of the border.

Twelve other Iraqis were expelled from the camp April 13.

The refugee agency said both groups were residents of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, a stronghold of Saddam Hussein's regime that fell to U.S. troops a week ago.

The U.N. agency said Syrian authorities cited "security concerns" when asked to explain the expulsions. The agency said it appreciated the pressure Syria is under not to give sanctuary to Hussein loyalists but urged it to give safe haven to asylum seekers.

U.S. plans meeting of donors

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to call for an international donors conference to raise money for Iraq's rebuilding, but it has no current estimate of the final bill or a date for the meeting, the Pentagon's budget chief said Tuesday.

Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller, said a number of countries already are providing or pledging assistance. About $1.7-billion in financial assistance, food, medicine and other relief has been raised from various countries, he said.

Antiwar lawmaker scrutinized

LONDON -- British law enforcement officials have begun a preliminary investigation into whether a lawmaker who vehemently opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq misused money from an Iraqi aid charity he runs.

In addition, the governing Labor Party is investigating separate allegations that George Galloway also received money from Saddam Hussein's regime through the oil-for-food program, as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Galloway, an outspoken Labor Party member, denied the report, calling it part of a "smear campaign" against war opponents and said he had begun legal proceedings against the newspaper.

Envoy pledges museum help

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The plundered Iraqi National Museum got a badly needed boost Tuesday as an American diplomat offered assistance in restoring it and recovering the hundreds of priceless antiquities stolen from it this month.

John Limbert, the U.S. ambassador to Mauritania, also called for a halt to trading in Mesopotamian art and historic objects.

Limbert, who arrived in Baghdad on Monday as part of the U.S. interim administration, spent nearly two hours meeting with museum officials and touring the museum.

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