Iranian opposition challenges to drop terror label

Iranian opposition challenges Bush to keep his word,drop terror label

Hundreds of Iranian exiles linked to an opposition group Washington considers terrorist gathered Thursday to demand US President George W. Bush support them in their efforts to unseat the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The National Convention for a Democratic Secular Republic in Iran gathered Iranian-Americans to push for official US support for their efforts.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, addressing the convention in a video link from France, called on the United States and the European Union to end its appeasement of the Tehran regime and recognize her National Council of Resistance of Iran as an Iranian government-in-exile.

"Just as the time has come to abandon the appeasement of tyrants, so the time has come to remove the ominous legacy of that policy, namely the terror label against the Iranian resistance," Rajavi said, according to a printed translation of her remarks in Farsi.

Rajavi, president of the opposition group, cannot enter the United States because the council and its armed wing, the People’s Mujahedeen, are considered terrorist organizations by the US government and the European Union.

Its detractors call the organization a Marxist cult, but the group insists it is committed to democracy and is merely fighting oppression under the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The group has considerable support among US lawmakers, think-tank experts and lobbyists, who claim the terrorism designation was meant to appease Tehran and want Bush to order it lifted.

Bush has denounced the regime in Tehran, saying it supports terrorism and is trying to develop a nuclear bomb, and has urged Iranians to work against the ruling clergy. In February, during his State of the Union address to Congress, Bush said: "To the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

Tancredo and other lawmakers however want the United States to go further. They have introduced legislation to provide financial and political assistance to Iranian opposition groups that oppose terrorism and support democracy.

The People’s Mujahedeen, whose headquarters are in Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, was implicated in attacks on US military officers in Iran in the 1970s, and supported the 1979 Islamic revolution and the subsequent takeover of the US embassy by Iranian militants.

But the movement was suppressed in the years that followed, and the group set up base in Iraq in 1986 and carried out regular cross-border raids into Iran, with which Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988.

The group also participated in Saddam Hussein’s crackdown on an uprising by Shiites and Kurds in 1991.

Some 3,800 of the group’s fighters were disarmed and interned by US forces in 2003 at a camp in Iraq. They have been given protected status under the Geneva Conventions, and US officials have interviewed them to determine if they had been involved in terrorist incidents.  

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