MKO must leave Iraq by end of 2011

MKO must leave Iraq by end of 2011

The Iraqi foreign minister says members of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) must leave Iraq, stressing that Baghdad's stance on the issue is crystal clear, Press TV reported.

"Camp Ashraf is to be shut down, and members of the [MKO] group have been given until the end of the current year (2011) to leave Iraqi soil," Hoshyar Zebari said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran on Tuesday, the Fars news agency reported.

He went on to say that Baghdad has proposed that a trilateral committee be established to discuss the situation of MKO.

Tehran and Baghdad also plan to hold talks with the Red Cross to discuss the future of the MKO members residing at the camp, he added.

The U.S. designated the MKO a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997; the group is still on the list. Britain and the European Union took the group off their terrorist lists in 2008 and 2009 respectively after court rulings that found no evidence of terrorist actions after the MKO renounced violence in 2001.

The MKO fled to Iraq in the 1980s, where it enjoyed the support of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and set up Camp Ashraf in the eastern province of Diyala, near the Iranian border. Over 3,000 MKO members are currently residing at the camp

Zebari also said the Iraqi government has suggested on several occasions that arrangements be made to facilitate the repatriation of the MKO members who want to return to Iran.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the visiting Iraqi official underscored that the US military's presence in Iraq will not be extended unless Baghdad deems it necessary.

He stressed that the Iraqi people do not approve of the US military presence in their country, touching upon a security pact between Baghdad and Washington which requires that the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.

"The extension of US troops' presence in Iraq is not an issue, unless the Iraqi government wants them to stay," he said.

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