US: Iraq to relocate Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf

Photo: US: Iraq to relocate Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf  / Arab World

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that Iraq has agreed to relocate more than 3,000 people living in a refugee camp for an Iranian dissident movement, dpa reported.

Camp Ashraf is a compound operated by the People's Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI) in Iraq's Diyala province. After a deadly clash with Ashraf residents this year, the Iraqi government had planned to close the camp by the end of December.

An agreement signed Sunday between Baghdad and the United Nations delays the closing to allow time to implement a solution, she said.

The deal includes the temporary relocation of Camp Ashraf's residents to Camp Liberty, a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport. US forces this month completed their withdrawal from Iraq, including Camp Liberty.

"At this new location, the UN High Commission for Refugees will be able to conduct refugee status determinations for the residents of Ashraf - a necessary first step toward resettlement to third countries," Clinton said.

Voicing "full support" for the UN effort, she welcomed "this important step toward a humane resolution to the ongoing situation at Ashraf."

The PMOI, also known as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, was founded in 1965 to oppose the Iranian shah, and when he was toppled, the group launched an armed campaign against the new Islamic government. Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime allowed the group to use a military base near the Iranian border, where they have remained.

Last week, Martin Kobler, the UN special representative ambassador for Iraq, had appealed to the UN Security Council in New York to urge the Iraqi government to let Camp Ashraf remain open on humanitarian grounds.

"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 ... that provide for the safety and security of Ashraf's residents," Clinton said.

The UN is to have round-the-clock monitors during the relocation and at Camp Liberty while the Ashraf residents remain there.

"To be successful, this resettlement must also have the full support of the camp's residents, and we urge them to work with the UN to implement this relocation," Clinton said.

"All those who want to see the people at Camp Ashraf safe and secure should work together to see that the agreed upon plan is carried out."

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