WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials are becoming increasingly concerned about how to handle thousands of Iraqi refugees, including a number of deserters who may become targets of the Iraqi military once U.S. and allied forces leave the country.
With neither Saudi Arabia nor Kuwait willing to accept the refugees, the United States is exploring the possibility of camps in the 9-mile-wide border zone to be monitored by U.N. forces under a permanent cease-fire resolution now awaiting approval.
U.S. forces in Iraq have been giving humanitarian aid to some of the thousands of refugees fleeing areas torn by Iraq's civil war, many of whom have brought tales of widespread brutality against civilians.
"A lot of people showing up are young draft-age males who are probably deserters" from the Iraqi armed forces and would be likely targets for the Iraqi government, an administration official said last night.
The official, who declined to be identified, said the U.S. was working with international organizations and other governments to untangle the problem of how to provide both humanitarian aid and the necessary protection.
Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman, told reporters yesterday that he couldn't give "specific plans at this point" on how the refugee problem would be dealt with.
The American military, Kuwaiti Red Crescent and other organizations are assisting the refugees now, "and we are in touch with various international organizations that would have a role in taking refugees in that area," he said.