WASHINGTON — The United States said Tuesday it is ready to help Iraq find a negotiated plan for an Iranian opposition camp in which the dissidents there could "conceivably" end up in a third country.
Iraq has ordered the exiled Iranian opposition group People’s Mujahedeen of Iran to leave the country by the end of this year after a deadly weekend assault at its Camp Ashraf base.
"We’re prepared to help the government of Iraq develop and execute a negotiated plan — and the emphasis on ‘negotiated’ — that addresses the future of Camp Ashraf," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
When asked whether the plan could include having the camp’s members transferred to a third country where they would not be tortured or abused, Toner replied: "Conceivably, yeah."
Toner also said Washington is urging the authorities in Baghdad to allow UN officials to visit Camp Ashraf to determine what happened during the assault and how many people were killed.]
An Iraqi security official said at least three people were killed Friday when Iraqi forces clashed with the Iranian opposition group, but the dissidents claimed 31 of their members died in a full military assault.
During a visit to American troops in northern Iraq, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed concern at the reports of casualties. He urged Iraqi authorities to show restraint.
The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran set up Camp Ashraf in the 1980s — when the regime of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was at war with the Islamic republic — as a base to operate against Tehran.
It was disarmed following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.