US to Focus on Iraqis' Plight; Opposition Figures Heard

THE Bush administration has promised to give ``urgent'' attention to humanitarian issues such as the plight of the Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein's armies, and a senior United States official met with Iraqi opposition figures to discuss the suffering of the Iraqi people. State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Wednesday the admnistration has instructed Thomas Pickering, the US ambassador to the United Nations, to pursue the plight of Iraqi refugees and other issues.

Ms. Tutwiler also voiced concern about reports that the Iraqi Army is massacring civilians in an apparent successful bid to crush an uprising.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, head of the State Department's Near Eastern and Asian affairs division, met with Iraqi opposition figures at an undisclosed location outside the State Department.

The meeting, the first of its kind, lasted about an hour and the ``Iraqi participants expressed their concern for the events that are occurring in Iraq and the suffering of the Iraqi people,'' the State Department said in a statement late Wednesday.

``They expressed their support for the territorial integrity of Iraq and the nondismemberment of the country, as well as support for democracy in Iraq,'' the department said. ``The majority of the meeting focused on the humanitarian aspect of the situation in Iraq.''

At the State Department's daily briefing, Tutwiler said the administration condemned violence against Iraqi civilians.

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