- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan, March 19 (UPI) — Jordanian officials said Wednesday they tightened the border with Iraq to control the flow of Iraqis expected to flee ahead of a U.S. war expected to be launched against Iraq any time after 8 p.m. EST.

They said the government ordered border officials not to allow Iraqis into Jordan unless they had a valid residency permit in the kingdom or entry visas to third countries.

Until Tuesday morning, following President George W. Bush's declared 48-hour deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave their country or face war, Iraqis were permitted free entry in Jordan, but required to obtain residency permits after a 2-week stay.

One official added, however, that there has not been any substantial increase in the number of Iraqis trying to cross through al-Karma Jordan-Iraq border post, 220 miles northeast of Amman.

Jordan, with instrumental assistance of international relief organizations, have set up two refugee camps just outside the desert town of Ruwaished, 50 miles from the Iraqi border, to shelter Iraqi refugees and third-country nationals fleeing war.

Relief officials said one camp was set up for Iraqi refugees who would not be allowed entry inside the country, while another would shelter third-country nationals who would remain for 72 hours before their repatriation to their homes. They added that the camps were Wednesday ready to shelter, feed and provide medical services for 60,000 refugees.

Officials said a station was set up in the no-man's land between Jordan and Iraq where the refugees would be "filtered" before being transported in buses to their allocated camps, adding that only Iraqi civilians would be allowed in.

Meanwhile, people in Ruwaished said they Wednesday saw more than 50 exhausted Iraqis, mostly women, children and elderly, pour out of an oil tanker truck that appeared to have smuggled them out of their country.

Officials said the authorities transferred them to the refugee camp nearby.

Border officials in Ruwaished also said the number of tanker trucks transporting oil into Jordan, which is dependent on Iraqi petroleum, has dramatically dwindled since Tuesday.

Officials in Amman said many truckers on the Iraq-Jordan highway have chosen not to risk their lives when the U.S. forces launch their military operations against Iraq.

In the 1991 Gulf War, dozens of Jordanian oil tankers were bombed by coalition war planes on the Iraq-Jordan highway, killing their drivers.

Jordan has been receiving all its oil supplies — around 5 million tons annually — from Iraq since 1990 with special permission from the U.N Sanctions Committee that supervises the embargo imposed on Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Jordanian officials said Amman has received assurances it would receive oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates should the Iraqi supplies be stopped or disrupted.

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