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Fewer Iraq refugees entering U.S.

U.S. admissions of Iraqi refugees are nose-diving amid bureaucratic in-fighting, despite the Bush administration’s pledge to boost them to roughly 1,000 per month, according to State Department statistics obtained by the Associated Press.

For the third straight month since the United States said it would improve processing and resettle 12,000 Iraqis by the end of the current budget year on Sept. 30, the number admitted has actually slid, the figures show.

The steady decline – from 450 in October to 362 in November and 245 in December – means the administration will have to allow in 10,943 Iraqis over the next nine months, or roughly 1,215 per month, to meet the target it has set for itself.

But that goal will be difficult to meet and there are few precedents for such large influxes since hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese refugees were resettled here after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

In the past five years, with few exceptions, notably Somalia and Liberia, the United States has never been able to admit more than 1,000 refugees per month from any country, according to an AP review of statistics from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Laurel, Md.

Inmate killed after hospital escape

An inmate who escaped from a hospital Wednesday, briefly taking a worker hostage and stealing two getaway cars, was captured and killed by police hours later in a cemetery, authorities said.

Kelvin Poke, 45, overpowered guards at Laurel Regional Hospital and fired several shots before fleeing, authorities said. Once outside, he shot out the window of a car and drove away, dumping the driver, said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley.

He was captured hours later about 30 miles away. Officers had tailed a suspicious vehicle – a white Ford Explorer with flat tires – into a cemetery shortly after 3 p.m. Poke got out of the vehicle and opened fire on police, who then shot back, police said.

Poke was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Major Joseph McCann of Prince George’s County police.

A woman who was in the vehicle with Poke was not seriously injured, and police believe she may have been a victim.