World Bank proposes $150m loan to Jordan

Funds will help country foot bill for thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing civil war

The World Bank has proposed a $150m loan for Jordan to help it with the cost of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, Jordanian and World Bank board sources said on Wednesday.

"The (World Bank) board should act on it in June," one source told Reuters. "Pressure on Jordan is increasing and the loan should help ease the economic burden."

Close to 500,000 Syrian refugees, out of a total of 1.5 million, have sought shelter in Jordan from an escalating civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters trying to overthrow him.

Jordan has sought to win more outside help in its struggle to cope with the vast influx of refugees from Syria. The World Bank loan could help bring further international assistance to Jordan.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Amman on Wednesday to pave the way for a U.S.-Russian proposed peace conference, possibly in Geneva next month, aimed at ending the two-year Syrian conflict.

The cost of accommodating the refugees has squeezed Jordan's economy, which was hit by a financial crisis last year and forced the government to seek a $2bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Fighting in Syria has increased in recent months in a war that has already killed more than 80,000 people and drawn in Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Iranian backers in a conflict spreading across borders.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told Reuters in Geneva on Tuesday he was worried about the situation in the region and the poverty-fighting institution stood ready to help. The World Bank pledged $250m to Jordan in January 2012 to help it cope with the economic downturn, but Jordan's King Abdullah asked Kim for further assistance two weeks ago.

"With Jordan, they are the first ones who have come and just asked me directly for increased assistance and we've said yes," Kim said.

While many of the Syrian refugees are in Jordan's main Zaatri camp, many have taken refuge with Jordanian families or friends in towns close to the Syrian border, putting a strain on water, electricity and other local resources.

The United Nations has urged Jordan not to close its borders to the refugees.

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