The United States urged Turkey on Wednesday to move quickly to let Iraqi Kurds who had worked for U.S. agencies into Turkey so they could escape the wrath of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s “security goons.”
“We have a moral obligation,” U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said in calling for a immediate action.
Burns portrayed the refugees as political targets, thereby hinting some of them may qualify for sanctuary in the United States if Turkey gives them temporary haven.
The Iraqi assault on Kurds in northern Iraq last week reportedly undermined a covert U.S. operation aimed at overthrowing Saddam.
The Americans involved are said to have fled. On Monday, Burns confirmed all U.S. officials had left Iraq.
But among the 50,000 to 100,000 refugees who international relief organizations estimate are in flight are about 2,500 Kurds and their families who worked for a U.S. aid agency or the U.S.-led allied force that patrolled northern Iraq.
Negotiations with Turkey to secure temporary refuge have moved slowly.
These refugees are not people just suffering deprivation, Burns said. “We cannot be at all sure their lives will be protected against the security goons of Saddam Hussein,” he said.