DAMASCUS (AFP) — A Syrian official denied on Friday that Damascus had dropped plans to impose visa restrictions on Iraqis wanting to enter the country, as stated by the Iraqi prime minister's office.
"I deny the reports coming from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki relating to the cancellation of entry visas being imposed on Iraqis coming to Syria," the foreign ministry official told AFP.
Some 30,000 Iraqis fleeing violence in their own country are arriving each month in neighbouring Syria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Last Monday, Syria said it would impose visa restrictions on Iraqis from September 10 in a bid to control the flood of refugees. It was also planning to permit only those Iraqis who were from the economic, commercial and scientific sectors to enter Syria.
Earlier on Friday, Maliki's office in Baghdad claimed the visa requirement was being scrapped.
"The dialogues held between the prime minister's office and the Syrian brothers led to this decision to exempt Iraqis from getting a visa to enter Syria," the office said.
Since the US-led invasion of March 2003, more than 2.3 million Iraqis have become refugees, with upwards of 1.5 million now in Syria and as many as 750,000 in Jordan.
In accordance with its Arab nationalist ideology, the Syria government does not normally impose visa requirements on the citizens of other Arab states.
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