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Rescue Efforts Bedeviled by Delays, Lack of Coordination With AM-Gulf-Refugees, Bjt

April 24, 1991

PIRANSHAR, Iran (AP) _ Improving weather conditions and relief supplies arriving from all over the world are helping reduce casualties among about 1 million Iraqi Kurds displaced by Saddam Hussein’s crackdown.

″Things have improved somewhat,″ said Christopher Ingram, 30, a doctor from New York City who is working with the Paris-based Medicins du Monde.

His makeshift clinic on the Iran-Iraq border, about 10 miles east of Piranshar, handles emergency cases among the thousands of refugees still crossing the mountain frontier.

Ingram said supplies of medicines are plentiful and he now examines about 50 cases of diarrhea and respiratory diseases a day - half the number of a week ago.

He said a spell of warm weather and sunshine after the freezing cold, rain and hail storms of last week had helped reduce the number of sick arrivals, most of them children and old people.

Officers of a Belgian paratroop unit that arrived Sunday said they would be moving to Ziveh, a town close to where the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Iran meet.

They plan to set up a new camp and a hospital for thousands of refugees crowding the area.

The detachment is one of the first Western military units to enter Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. A German contingent of 87 soldiers arrived in southern Bakhtaran the same day.

The Belgians’ arrival caused much confusion at the local airport, where perplexed Iranian officials ordered the troops to leave the country before clearance for their stay finally arrived from Tehran.

The 40-man unit, which also brought a load of medical supplies, set up temporary base at the Piranshar soccer stadium pending the resolution of other ″coordination problems related to the mission,″ said its commander, Maj. Marc Savel. He declined to elaborate.

A disaster relief team of doctors and engineers from Japan’s International Cooperation Agency also has opened a clinic for refugees in the region.

As aid operations gained pace, medicine, food and other relief were pouring in. But Iran’s experienced Disaster Relief Organization and local authorities seemed overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees, and many Kurds complained they have yet to see any of the aid.

Iran has complained that a disproportionate amount of aid has gone to Turkey, where there are fewer refugees fleeing Iraqi forces.

More than half of Iraq’s Kurdish population of 4 million fled their homes after government forces crushed a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq. Besides those in Iran and Turkey, hundreds of thousands clog routes out of Iraq waiting to cross to safety.

The situation is particularly dire in Iran where hundreds of thousands are crowded into camps of flimsy plastic or cloth shelters.

Khalid Rasheed, whose wife and eight children have been sharing a dingy room with three other families in Piranshar, said Tuesday the children urgently need milk and food.

″Iran government is good to us, but local people not so good,″ said the 38-year-old driver from the Iraqi town of Erbil.

Other Kurds accused local officials of pilfering food and tents sent to the refugees and selling them in exchange for television sets and other appliances the Kurds brought with them. These claims could not be independently verified.

″Medical help is still disjointed and uncoordinated but when the patients get here they get acceptable care,″ said Bob Woody, a pediatric neurologist from El Paso, Texas. Woody has been running a makeshift hospital in Piranshar for two weeks.

″Never mind about me - but please tell the West that it must send more help to save our Kurdish people,″ said Jawher Saleh, an emaciated and feverish 20-year-old patient in the hospital.

A student of technology from Erbil, Saleh said he contracted pneumonia after trekking 155 miles across Iraqi Kurdistan this month.

Infants suffering from severe dehydration and malnutrition form the bulk of the patients in the 75-bed facility set up in an unused sports hall by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Update hourly