7,000 Iraqi Refugees to Be Permitted Into U.S.

The Bush administration is planning to allow about 7,000 Iraqi refugees into the country over the next year, compared with 463 Iraqis who have been allowed to enter the U.S. since the war began, the State Department is announcing.

The United States has been working with international organizations to aid Iraqi refugees who have been resettling in neighboring countries of Jordan and Syria. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is asking for $60 million in aid from nations around the world. The U.S. will pledge $18 million in new funding.

Thousands of translators, aides to Americans and others fleeing religious persecution and violent reprisal have been seeking escape from Iraq since the sectarian violence picked up a year ago.

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a new task force to coordinate assistance for refugee assistance to be spearheaded by Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky.

In fiscal year 2005, the United States made available 70,000 slots for refugees worldwide; 53,000 of those slots were filled, but only 202 Iraqis were allowed into the United States. Another 50 Iraqis and Afghans were admitted through a limited Pentagon program for translators who have worked with U.S military.

Nearly 4 million Iraqis have fled their country during the war.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.