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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:19 am

Jordan says to stem refugees if Assad regime falls

By JAMAL HALABYAssociated Press

Jordan will prevent a mass exodus of Syrian refugees from entering its territory if President Bashar Assad's regime collapses, and will instead create a safe haven inside Syria to protect them, Jordan's prime minister said Thursday.

Abdullah Ensour's remarks reflect widely held concerns in Jordan, which is already hosting 285,000 Syrian refugees and has exhausted its meager health care, education, water and energy resources.

Jordan is also anxious that the lawlessness and street chaos that could follow Assad's collapse would spill over Syria's southern border into the kingdom - a traditionally quiet country with a prided security record in the volatile Mideast.

"If the regime collapses and there was another exodus of refugees, we will stop them and keep them in their country," Ensour told reporters in his office. His aides said Jordan however has not yet decided and would unlikely close its northern border to block refugees.

Ensour said that rather than taking in another exodus, Jordan would dispatch special forces to "secure safe havens for the Syrians inside their country."

"We do not encourage our Syrian brothers to come to Jordan because their country needs them more and they should remain there," he added.

Ensour did say whether he thought Assad would fall or not, but said Jordan has had "no contacts" with his regime in recent weeks.