(BAGHDAD) — With the conflict in Syria expanding, Iraqi expatriates are being urged to come home.
There are an estimated 200,000 to one million Iraqis currently living in Syria, many of whom left their homeland during the height of the Iraq war from 2005 to 2007.
Baghdad has stepped up its warning to Iraqis living in Syria to leave the country as soon as possible following the deaths of two journalists covering the violence. It’s believed at least a dozen Iraqis have been killed so far this month in Syria.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that Baghdad would foot the expenses for any countrymen settled in Syria who now want to escape the bitter fight between the Syrian military and rebel forces that the International Committee of the Red Cross now terms a civil war.
The government also issued a plea to Damascus not to harm any fleeing Iraqis because they “are not part of the conflict going on in Syria now.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, Max Blau and Steve Almasy, CNN
Euan McKirdy and Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
Jessica Ivins, KSL.com
Ben Westcott, CNN