- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

RUWAISHED, Jordan, March 24 (UPI) — The sole Iraqi refugee to make it to the Jordanian border since the beginning of the war is now stuck in a tent in no man's land between the two countries.

Mohammad Ali Goufi, 30, told United Press International that he had traveled to the border by bus and was allowed to leave Iraq "to see my dying mother in Yemen."

With him on the bus were 22 Palestinians who are bearers of Iraqi and Egyptian travel documents. But the Egyptian Embassy in Amman is unwilling to guarantee their onward journey, and the Iraqi Embassy in the Jordanian capital won't take them back.

Goufi said he worked as a car salesman in the duty-free zone outside Amman. But no one recognized the name.

International relief organizations had been expecting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees. So far, however, only a trickle has been reported on all frontiers.

Jordanian authorities erected eight tents in the desolate wind and rain-swept zone between the two countries — some 400 miles from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and about 200 miles from Amman.

Families occupy seven tents — three per tiny tent — and Goufi has one to himself. The temperature Monday was near freezing.

International Red Cross and United Nations refugee agency representatives were on hand when UPI reached them. The media have not been authorized to enter the no man's land.

Observers said this was partly because gouger's fees were being charged for taxis and other transport, and partly because Jordan, Turkey and Syria had closed their borders to refugees at least for the moment, as had the Iranians. But, the observers said, Iraqis could well be staying put in anticipation of being liberated by troops of the U.S.-led coalition.

Fattima Saeed, a medical doctor, has a Jordanian passport, but she wants to stay with her Palestinian lawyer-husband and three of her five children (two stayed behind in Baghdad).

None spoke ill of the Saddam Hussein regime. "We left because of the bombing and food shortages."

When asked why they thought the United States decided to invade to remove Saddam from power, they looked at each other to see who would speak first.

Then, the husband said: "We're not involved in politics." They declined to offer their opinions about the Iraqi regime, and kept saying, "we're not in politics."

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