MKO claims to win US protection

The Mujahedin Khalq Organization claims that the US has granted it immunity amid reports that Iraq will soon take charge of the group.

A US embassy statement said on Sunday that Iraq would take charge of Camp Ashraf, MKO’s headquarters and training site, as of Jan. 1, 2009. The statement, however, added that a US force will be present in the camp.

It also said that Washington and Baghdad will work to “assist the camp residents in securing a safe future”.

MKO leaders said on Monday that the US embassy statement was a “real victory”, indicating that the members of the group fell under Washington’s protection and could remain in safety.

“It means the United States has recognized its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of our people in Ashraf,” an MKO leader said.

Earlier, in a statement on Dec. 21, the Iraqi government called on the MKO members to leave the country in a “non-forcible” manner. Iraq “plans to shut down the camp and to either deport its population to their country or to a third country,” read the statement. “Remaining in Iraq is not an option for them.”

Following the Iraqi government’s statement, a White House spokesman, Benjamin Chang, said that the US received guarantees from Baghdad that MKO members residing in Iraq would not be “forcibly transferred” to a country where they may face charges.

An Iraqi official, however, disputed the claims, indicating that no security guarantees had been granted to MKO members.

“The Iraqi government is determined to abide by a parliamentary verdict to extradite members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization,” IRIB quoted the high-ranking Iraqi official as saying on condition of anonymity on Saturday.

The MKO, blacklisted by both the US and the EU, moved to Iraq in 1986, where it enjoyed the support of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein, the group came under the protection of the United States.

Iran has repeatedly called for the expulsion of the terrorist group from Iraq. The group is responsible for launching operations against Iran during the Iraq-Iran war from Camp Ashraf. It also masterminded a slew of assassinations and bombings inside Iran.

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