Iraqi president says MKO camp to be closed by end of 2011

Photo: Iraqi president says MKO camp to be closed by end of 2011 / Arab World

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani reiterated Saturday that his country will close an Iranian exiled anti-government group Mujahedeen Khalq Organization (MKO)'s camp in Iraq by the end of 2011, Xinhua reported.

"A committee has been formed to shut down Ashraf Camp in order to help establish security," Talabani said in a speech during an international conference against terrorism in Tehran, pointing out that the committee was formed by Iraq, Iran and the International Red Cross.

"The government of Iraq will do all it can to prevent terrorism. We should attempt to close down MKO terrorists' Ashraf Camp and we would remove all of its members. Those who are willing, will go back to Iran, others will go wherever they want to," said Talabani.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi earlier that the camp would be shut down and its members would leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Iraqi government announced on April 12 that the camp will be closed and the Iranian dissidents must leave by the end of the year, after two clashes erupted between Iraqi soldiers and some Iranian exiles of the camp on April 8, killing at least one person and wounding 25 others.

The MKO, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), is a self-claimed Marxist and Islamic movement. It was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah of Iran and subsequently fought to oust the Islamic regime which took power in the 1979 revolution. The group fled to Iraq in 1986, and set up Ashraf Camp near the Iranian border. The camp contains more than 3, 000 Iranians and their families.

After the MKO fighters were disarmed following the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq, the camp remained under the protection of the U. S. military police for five years before the Iraqi government took over the security responsibility in the camp.

The organization has long been a problem for the Shiite- dominated Iraqi government because of its close ties with Iran.

The Iranian government says the MKO is "an organized grouplet which has never denied using weapons and arms." It has been blacklisted by the U.S. and some other countries as a terrorist group.

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