About 70 tribal leaders held their meeting on Wednesday in a school building near al-Hilla, the capital of Babylon, and exchanged views on how to stop death squads from killing and forcing people out of their homes along sectarian lines.

 

The leaders agreed to form committees to work on locating those who have been displaced and bring them back home.

 

Muhamad al-Ghurair, an Iraqi journalist attended the meeting, said the leaders were frustrated.

 

"They were full of determination and hope, but at the same time they knew they do not have the ability to work independently to achieve what they agreed on. They need a lot cash and equipment," he said.

 

Senior Iraqi army and police officers attended the meeting and promised to help the leaders to achieve peace.  

 

Colonel Qais al-Mamouri, commander of al-Hilla police, said there were about 70 tribal leaders representing tribes in Babylon and Wasit governorates.

 

"I have to confess that the discussions were amazingly bold and honest," he said.

 

Last August, Iraqi tribal leaders backed the peace initiative by Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.

 

Sectarian strife

The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes to escape sectarian strife is rising , and has now reached almost 9,000 a week, according to the latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

 

Jemini Pandya, an IOM spokeswoman, said spiralling violence between Iraqi factions since February has pushed the number of internal refugees in central and southern Iraq to about 190,000.

 

The IOM says it is working with the Iraqi authorities and taking stock of the problem.

 

"The displacement is increasingly looking like permanent settlement and there is urgent need for shelter and employment solutions for these families," Pandya said.

 

Host communities

According to Rafiq Tschannen, the IOM's head of mission in Iraq, host communities are taking in the displaced, which are usually from the same religious community.

 

"If this is not to become a chronic humanitarian crisis, we need to put in place livelihood and integration programmes in addition to providing emergency assistance such as food and water," he said in a statement.

 

The IOM says funding for such assistance is running low.

 

With no sign of either the violence or new displacement ending, the plight of the victims is likely to deteriorate as winter approaches, it said.