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Americas

US President Donald Trump signs new travel ban, spares Iraq

Trump has removed Iraq from his controversial travel ban and delayed its implementation to avoid repeated chaos. The Iraqi government hailed its removal from the list as an "important step."

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Trump signs new immigration order

US President Donald Trump issued a revised executive order banning travel to the US from six countries.

The latest directive removes Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens are banned from entering America for 90 days.

The ban applies to citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and exempts those who already have valid visas.

The new order came after the first controversial ban was blocked by several US courts.

Trump signed the order privately, although Press Secretary Sean Spicer posted a photo on Twitter of the signing.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Iraq was taken off the list because its government had imposed new vetting procedures and because of its work with the United States in countering Islamic State militants.

The Iraqi government hailed its removal from the list as an "important step" that strengthened relations between Baghdad and Washington.

"The Iraqi foreign ministry expresses its deep satisfaction with the executive order issued by President Donald Trump which includes an exemption for Iraqis from the ban on travel to the United States of America," spokesman Ahmed Jamal said.

The ministry "considers it an important step in the right direction that strengthens the strategic alliance between Baghdad and Washington in a number of fields, especially fighting terrorism," said Jamal.

Tillerson said the order was necessary to ensure domestic security.

"As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country."

 Attorney General Jeff Sessions added at a joint press conference that it "responsibly provides a needed pause so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern."

 "Three of these nations are state sponsors of terrorism," Sessions said, referring to Iran, Sudan and Syria, adding that others had served as "safe havens" for terror operatives.
 

In contrast to the first order which was effective immediately, the new directive had an implementation delay to limit the disruptions that created havoc for some travelers. Trump also softened the delivery somewhat, not announcing the measure in a major press conference as with his first, short-lived attempt to limit entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

A factsheet seen by news agency Associated Press ahead of its signing said that the goal of the new order was the same as the first: keeping would-be terrorists out of the country while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the US for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with US government requests to update or improve that information.

The order also suspends the entire US refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. After the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the US will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

The new order no longer singles out Syrian refugees for an indefinite ban. Syrian refugees will now be treated like other refugees.

aw/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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