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Lawmaker Blasts Asylum Offers for Iraqi Christians
By By Hamid Ahmed

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A Christian lawmaker called on Iraq's government Tuesday to better protect its dwindling Christian community, lambasting the nations that have offered asylum to the minority as meddling in Iraq's problems.

The comments by lawmaker Younadem Kana, from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, come after a spate of violent attacks on Iraqi Christians - including a Catholic church attack last month that killed 68 people.

Earlier this week, two Christian brothers in Kana's hometown were fatally shot by unknown gunmen who raided their auto mechanic shop.

Officials in France and Germany have offered asylum to Iraq's Christians, an estimated 1 million of whom have already left their homeland since 2003.

More than a third of the 53,700 Iraqis who have been given asylum to the U.S. since 2007 are Christian, according to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, even though they only make up an estimated 5 percent of the population.

"We demand the government be up to its responsibility of protecting its people - otherwise the crimes targeting Christians will continue," Kana told a parliament session on Tuesday.

He said calls from France and Germany should be "rejected" and claimed they are "linked to foreign agendas that aim to deplete Iraq's Christian community."

Kana also accused "political agendas" within the Shiite-led government of ignoring pleas to help Iraqi Christians. "We found no response, just silence," he said.

Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Muslim also from Mosul, agreed to consider a resolution to better protect Christians to keep them in Iraq.

He called the issue "one of the most critical that Iraq is experiencing now."

Mosul is a former al-Qaida stronghold about 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad.


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