Iraq’s government said yesterday it was unable to provide help for Syrian refugees looking to escape their country’s ongoing strife because of its own poor security situation.

“Our borders are desert areas, and we can not provide aid for refugees because of the security situation,” government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in an interview on Iraqiya state TV, to explain why Iraq would not be able to support them.

“We are sorry for not receiving Syrian refugees. We are not like Jordan and Turkey – their borders are regions that can provide services. We had hoped to help our Syrian refugee brothers.”

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled their country in recent days after violence mounted, in particular in the capital Damascus. Up to 30,000 Syrians have fled into Lebanon over the past two days, according to the UN refugee agency, and more than 43,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey or camps set up near the frontier since March 2011.

And authorities say nearly 140,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan.

Mr Dabbagh said some 1,000 Iraqis had returned to the country by plane from Syria, and a further 1,500 were waiting at Damascus airport, adding that moving Iraqis by land in Syria was “not safe”.

Mr Dabbagh estimated on Thursday thatsome 100,000 to 200,000 Iraqis still remained inside Syria.

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