Top UN envoy urges Iraq to not forcibly close refugee camp

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Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq

The UN envoy in Iraq has made a plea to the Iraqi government to extend the 31 December deadline for the closing of a refugee camp hosting Iranians, while a durable solution is found.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, made this appeal during his briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday.

Camp Ashraf, home to more than 3,000 Iranian refugees, has had several run-ins with Iraqi security forces.

Camp residents have refused to be transferred to a new location without UN protection, according to Kobler.

A forced action, he concluded, would result in bloodshed.

"I am pleased by the progress made so far and by the government of Iraq's agreement to give UNHCR the role it has under its mandate. The government of Iraq is also committed to the principle of non-refoulement and gave assurances to the Secretary-General of its commitment to find a peaceful solution. There is, however, a real danger of confrontation and real violence unless a mutually accepted solution is found."

Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is determining refugee status of the camp's residents.

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