The Iranian Ministry of Health, Treatment and Medical Education warned here Monday against the adverse consequences that may be expected in the event of s US-led war on Iraq, particularly the influx of Iraqi refugees into Iran, IRNA reported from Tehran on Tuesday.
Deputy Health Minister Mohammad Esmaeil Akbari told reporters here that the possible influx of Iraqis into neighboring countries as a result of a war or other unexpected events seems very likely.
"Taking into account the fact that only a limited number of Iraqis have been vaccinated, we fear the great danger of a spread of contagious diseases that we have not vaccinated our people against," he said.
Moreover, he disclosed that a refugee center would soon be established in the interior ministry in anticipation of the flood of Iraqi refugees in an increasingly imminent war, noting that the health ministry is prepared to extend health coverage to prospective refugees and to provide comprehensive information on the regional situation.
Akbari also highlighted the fact that the United Nations and other international fora have never been really helpful to Iran for the latter's assistance to or hosting of refugees in the past, adding that the necessary funds to meet tremendous expenses to accommodate refugees in the past was borne mostly by the government.
He said Iran predicts at least 300,000 to 900,000 Iraqi refugees would probably seek refuge in the Islamic Republic in the event of war, adding that the health ministry has taken contingency measures such as training health personnel who would be able to respond adequately in case of need.
Pointing to the bilateral talks between Iran and international organizations on the bio-terrorism issue, he said the issue is of grave importance and that Iran has raised the question of the possibility of being exposed to the dangers posed by such terror weapons.
Akbari raised the question as to the possible chemical substances the US could use during the war and for which it has vaccinated its soldiers in the region, citing smallpox in particular.
He stressed that the Islamic Republic can count itself a victim of chemical weapons supplied by the West, particularly the United States, to Baghdad during the eight-year Iraqi-imposed war.
"Western countries who have supplied Iraq with weapons of mass destruction and Iran are in a better position to know that Iraq has the chemical substances, but Iran and our uninvited guests do not know the type of chemical substances we will be exposed to."
Hr said the Iranian Health Ministry expects international organizations "to provide us with necessary information concerning the kind of warfare and equipment as well as weapons that may be used during the war."
He regretted the fact that to date the Islamic Republic of Iran has not received the information it needs from chief UN weapons Hans Blix and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed El-Baradei on the kind of chemical or biological weapons possessed by Iraq so that it can take measures to respond properly in case sick refugees bearing traces of exposure to or the effects of the use of these weapons find themselves in the country.
... Payvand News - 3/18/03 ... --