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U.N. and Iraq reach deal on Iranian dissidents
The United Nations and the Iraqi government have reached a deal to transfer more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents living in a camp north of Baghdad, potentially averting what international observers have warned would be a massacre.
The dissidents have not responded to the deal, and a spokesman for the group told The Washington Times on Monday that they are waiting to review the official document.
Camp Ashraf is home to members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the State Department designated a terrorist group in 1997. The dissidents surrendered their weapons in 2003 as part of a cease-fire agreement with U.S. forces.
The camp has come under attack by Iraqi forces several times. In April, the Iraqi army attacked the camp and killed 36 residents, including eight women.
On Sunday, the dissidents said Camp Ashraf had come under rocket fire.
The Iraqi government has agreed to allow the U.N. to station monitors at the new camp. U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad will visit the camp, and a liaison officer from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights also will be involved in the process.
“We hope that [the deal] would officially include the minimum assurances so that it would be acceptable to Ashraf residents,” said Shahin Ghobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a political coalition that includes the MEK.
Mr. Gobadi said the dissidents will not accept forcible relocation.
Mr. Kobler said the deal is about “voluntary relocation and its implementation is based firmly on all sides acting peacefully and in good faith.”
“We are encouraged by the Iraqi government’s willingness to commit to this plan and expect it to fulfill all its responsibilities, especially the elements of the [memorandum of understanding] that provide for the safety and security of Ashraf’s residents,” she added.
The State Department is reviewing the terrorist designation after a July 2010 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Britain and the European Union took the MEK off their lists of terrorist organizations in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
The MEK, also known as People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, was responsible for terrorist attacks in Iran in the 1970s that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians, according to the State Department. The group also received military and financial support from Saddam Hussein’s regime.
U.S. officials say it would require an act of Congress to resettle the dissidents in the U.S.
“Immigration prohibitions would likely prevent many Ashraf residents from being admitted to the United States, regardless of the MEK’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization,” Mr. Fried told lawmakers at the hearing.
In June of 2009, the U.S. turned over control of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government, which gave written assurances that it would treat the residents in accordance with Iraq’s Constitution and its international obligations.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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