Iraqi govt won’t forcibly evict Iranians
The Iraqi government has promised it won’t forcibly evict an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq since Saddam Hussein’s era, the U.S. ambassador said in a television interview broadcast Saturday.
The People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen Khalq, fears Iran is pressuring Iraq to expel its members and force them back to Iran.
Iraq’s government has taken over national security from the Americans under a new agreement. But the U.S. Embassy has said American forces remain at the group’s base known as Camp Ashraf.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker pointed out the Americans have designated the People’s Mujahedeen as a terrorist organization, and he understands the Iraqi government wants the group removed from its territory.
But he said the Iraqis have promised to respect the human rights of the group’s members."We’ve discussed this issue intensively with the Iraqi government," he told the U.S.-funded Alhurra television station. "They have provided assurances that none of these individuals will be forcibly sent to a third country where they have reason to fear for their safety or well-being, and we know those assurances will be respected."
Iraq’s deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi said the government has been working with international agencies to try to find an acceptable way to remove the group, perhaps by finding other countries willing to take them.
"The Iraqi government’s position is that members of the Mujahedeen Khalq are unwanted here and they should leave Iraq and their camp should be closed, but Iraq will not make them leave forcibly," he told The Associated Press.
"We do not want to put their lives at stake," Abbawi said. "Even for those who wish to return to Iran, we have already gained assurances from Iranian officials that they will face no danger and we have ongoing talks regarding this issue with Tehran."
The People’s Mujahedeen, which allied with Saddam during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, has about 3,500 people at Camp Ashraf. When U.S.-led troops overthrew the regime, they demilitarized the group and confined its fighters to the compound northeast of Baghdad, under the protection of the multinational forces.
"Clearly, Iraq would like to see an organization that they too consider a terrorist organization no longer on their soil," Crocker said. "At the same time, like a responsible democracy, they have recognized that these individuals have basic humans rights, and they have provided assurances to uphold them."
The U.S. Embassy said in December that American troops would remain at Camp Ashraf "to assist the government of Iraq in carrying out its assurances of humane treatment of the residents" after the transition to the new security agreement, which took effect on Jan. 1.
By SAMEER N. YACOUB