Iraq refugee problem highlighted by UN conference

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Diplomats from over 60 nations are considering how to tackle the problem of Iraq's refugees at a two-day conference in Switzerland.

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) is hosting the conference in Geneva in an attempt to raise the profile of the plight of nearly four million people displaced by fighting within Iraq.

Over 450 participants are attending the conference, which also features involvement from 37 inter-governmental organisations and 64 non-government organisations.

"We should not expect this conference to be a miracle medicine, a magic response to the difficult humanitarian crisis that many Iraqis face, whether those who are internally displaced inside Iraq or those refugees who left Iraq for one of the neighbouring countries," Radhouane Nouicer, director of the Middle East and North Africa bureau of UNHCR, said.

"But we certainly intend and hope that this conference will contribute to raising the awareness of the world to the humanitarian crisis that faces Iraq and Iraqi refugees as a result of the difficult security situation in their country," he added.

Iraq's struggle for security has proved difficult for US-led coalition forces who ousted former dictator Saddam Hussein in the 2003 invasion.

Although many of the refugees who fled the country then have returned to their homes a much greater displacement has occurred since the bombing of a Shi'ite holy shrine in Samarra 14 months ago.

Over 50,000 people are leaving the country a month to flee the sectarian conflict which has placed the Middle Eastern country on the brink of civil war.

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