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Many struggling Iraqi refugees in Jordan blame the U.S. for their exile

AMMAN, Jordan—Adel Hessian fled the chaos consuming his native Baghdad eight months ago.

Now, Hessian, 25, lives with eight other Iraqis in a two-room apartment in a rundown section of Jordan's largest city and worries about the family he left behind.

"When I sleep, I dream about them being murdered by Americans," he said.

Thousands of Iraqis have fled to Jordan in the 18 months since the United States and its allies moved against Iraq. A porous border makes it impossible to know just how many.

Lots of them end up in the same Amman Station Street neighborhood where Hessian lives, packed five or more to a room, scrounging for necessities as basic as water.

Jordan offers these refugees open arms, a reflection of what government spokeswoman Asma Khader called "very strong relations," and the fact that "we are mixed together like one family since ancient times."

Iraqi children can attend public schools for free, Khader said. Their parents can even get Jordanian drivers' licenses.

Iraqi exiles are grateful. Jordan, they say, is the most hospitable country in the region.

Most see their stay as temporary and blame the United States for the turmoil that they fled. Few blame the insurgents who've used car bombings, kidnappings and other violent tactics to try to destabilize the government.

"We hope to liberate Iraq from the Americans because they are the main reason for the killing and damage to our homeland," Hedar Adnan said.

The violence keeps Iraqis such as Hajiwali Khalaf in Jordan even though it's much more expensive. Khalaf makes 15 Jordanian dinars a day _about $21—as a tailor. He said the hotel room he shared with 13 family members cost 12 dinars a day, leaving little for food.

On Fridays, Iraqi exiles line up outside the post office, hoping for letters from home.

Abu Hahdi, 45, got a letter from his brother in Baghdad, saying his family was alive and well. Hahdi, who's been in Amman about a year, said he left for financial reasons.

"It was difficult for me to feed my family and to find medicine and milk for my children when I lived there," he said.

Some refugees go so far as to recall Saddam Hussein's regime fondly.

"He put smiles on people's faces and the country was safe," Adnan said.

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(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-JORDAN

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