As thousands of Iraqi Kurds stream back from their squalid mountain exile, the allies have ordered Iraq to remove its troops from a northeastern area so the coalition can expand its resettlement effort.
The allies planned to extend their security zone in northern Iraq Thursday to set up additional camps for the Kurds.A statement issued Wednesday by the allies said British Royal Marines, Dutch Marines and French and U.S. ground forces were to begin moving about 25 miles east of the border town of Zakho, where the first camp was built.
Officers said they envision a string of camps north of the 36th parallel in Iraq, extending possibly as far as the Iranian border.
"This is a careful movement by the combined task force to provide the refugees the necessary sense of security to leave the mountains and either enter the second temporary community or return home," U.S. Lt. Gen. John Shalikashvili, the commander of the allied forces, said in the statement.
"While we do not expect any interference, we are prepared to take the steps necessary to accomplish this humanitarian mission," he said.
The security zone was set up for the 800,000 Kurdish refugees who fled to the mountains between Iraq and Turkey in March to escape Saddam's crackdown on their rebellion. More than 9,000 refugees have returned from the mountains, where hundreds of people have died of hunger and exposure.
The allies have decided to set up a second refugee camp, and on Wednesday they told Iraqi representatives to withdraw their security forces from the area near Amadiyah and Suriya. By nightfall there were indications the Iraqis had begun to leave, said military spokesman Lt. Col. Bob Flocke.
Only a small "indigenous" police force will be allowed to remain in Amadiyah, said an allied military statement.
U.S. officials said Saddam Hussein's summer palace, just west of Amadiyah, will be in the new security zone. "We will allow the Iraqis to retain a palace guard," Flock said, but the palace will be searched for heavy weapons.
Elite American reconnaissance forces were scouting the territory beyond the security zone on Wednesday to survey Iraqi troop movements and gather intelligence.