Baghdad: The Iraqi government wants members of an Iranian opposition group to leave the country because it is a "terrorist organisation" and the Iraqi constitution bans hosting such movements, chief spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said yesterday.
Al Dabbagh said members of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, or Mujahideen-e-Khalq, have been told they must go to Iran "or any other country" and should "arrange their residence in a country other than Iraq."
"The Cabinet affirms that the legal character of this organisation is a terrorist organisation," Al Dabbagh said during a news conference.
"We in Iraq have enough problems and we are passing through difficult circumstances. The constitution affirms that terrorist organisations should not be hosted."
He said a joint committee including representatives of the US, Iraq and the Mujahideen had been established to arrange for the group’s departure. He gave no deadline for them to leave.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said in July he would ban the organisation, which opposes the cleric-dominated government in Tehran, from distributing statements and would restrict its fighters from leaving their camp in eastern Iraq, which was established during the rule of Saddam Hussain.
At the time, Al Maliki said the group’s legal status would be reviewed. The US also considers the People’s Mujahideen a terrorist organisation.
Al Dabbagh’s comments came amid rising tension between the United States and Iran and weeks after the Iraqi government told the two countries to solve their problems away from Iraq’s territories.
The United States has accused Iran of aiding extremist groups that attack US forces in Iraq.
In the past two months US troops have detained eight Iranians in Baghdad and the northern city of Irbil. Five of them are still in US custody.
The People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran has thousands of members in Iraq, most of them in Camp Ashraf in the eastern Diyala province that borders Iran.
Dozens of others have been stranded on the Iraq-Jordan border for years. The organisation was founded in the late 1960s and fled to Iraq in the early 1980s after it fell out with the clerical regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
During Saddam Hussain’s rule, the movement used Iraq as a base for operations against Iran’s government.
AP, February 2, 2007