- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2013

A vice president of the European Parliament is complaining that comments by two State Department officials are being used for propaganda by Iran as it tries to crush exiled dissidents in Iraqi refugee camps.

Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a supporter of the Iranian resistance, noted Thursday that the official media of the “totalitarian regime ruling Iran and its affiliated media in Iraq have not been able to hide their happiness regarding false statements” by Elizabeth Jones, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

He also complained about similar comments earlier this month by Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Ms. Jones last week told a congressional panel that leaders of the Iranian dissidents in Iraq’s Camp Liberty have blocked U.S. and U.N. efforts to transfer the exiles out of Iraq to Albania, which along with Germany has agreed to accept some of the refugees.

“We spent a tremendous amount of time with the leadership to help them understand that they encourage their compatriots to take advantage of these opportunities, and for their own reasons they are reluctant to promote this in a transparent way that might be appropriate,” she told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr. Vidal-Quadras noted that Iran’s state news agency Fars reported that Ms. Jones had denounced the group’s leaders for “not cooperating on [the] departure of their forces from Iraq.”

Fars also called the dissidents members of a “terrorist organization.” The pro-Iranian government of Iraq often accuses the dissidents of terrorism as an excuse to launch attacks on the unarmed refugees.

The dissidents surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, effectively ending their armed struggle to overthrow the Iranian regime.

More than 3,000 dissidents continued living in a compound called Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad, the headquarters of their military campaign, until Iraq’s government demanded they be relocated to the much smaller Camp Liberty in Bagdad and then deported from the country.

Mr. Vidal-Quadras also criticized Ms. Sherman for comments at a May 15 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ms. Sherman accused the leaders at Camp Liberty and at the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran of preventing the dissidents in the camp “from knowing what their options are” for relocation.

Mr. Vidal-Quadras called the comments by Ms. Jones and Ms. Sherman “untruthful and dangerous,” and said they could be used as “an excuse [by Iraq] for another attack against” the dissidents.

He said the dissidents’ leaders have informed camp residents of the plans to move them to Albania, but only 14 have been relocated. He also noted that camp leaders have notified U.N. officials that 100 dissidents with German refugee status are prepared to move to Germany, but none has been transferred.

“Weren’t Ms. Jones and Ms. Sherman aware of those facts?” he said.

The State Department on Thursday defended the two officials and again accused the dissidents’ leadership of failing to cooperate.

“This is stalling relocation efforts, including impeding movement on firm offers from countries like Germany and could affect others already in progress like Albania,” the department said.

Mr. Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish member of the European Parliament from the center-right European People’s Party, is also president of the International Committee In Search of Justice, which claims a membership of 4,000 legislators in Europe and the United States who support the Iranian dissidents.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at [email protected] or @EmbassyRow.

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