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US urges Europe to help in resettlement of ex-camp Ashraf residents

Ambassador Daniel Fried, special advisor to US Secretary of State on Camp Ashraf in Iraq, is on a tour of Europe to discuss about developments concerning the Iranian opposition group Ambassador Daniel Fried, special advisor to US Secretary of State on Camp Ashraf in IraqMujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), and the continuing dialogue with EU countries on permanent resettlement solutions for Camp Ashraf’s former residents.

During his visit to Brussels, Fried will meet with officials in the European Commission and European Parliament. Speaking at a news conference at the US embassy in Brussels Wednesdy, Fried said the US has sought to support the peaceful relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf, first from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyet (Liberty) and subsequently out of Iraq. "Our purpose are humanitarian and not connected with any political motives of the MeK organisation," he stressed.

Last week, the US government decided to remove MeK from its list of foreign terrorist organisations.

"We made that decision because our review of MeK’s history, and in particular absence of any confirmed acts of terrorism by the MeK for more than a decade. We did not develop amnesia for MeK’s past actions inside Iraq. MeK has a bad history inside Iraq. It has a bad history with the US dating back to the 1970’s. We have not forgotten that," said the US diplomat. "But now the attention of the US and its partners will turn to resettlement. That is why I have come to Europe this week," he said.

Fried attended a meeting of the UNHCR in Geneva on Tuesday which was devoted to the issue. A number of European countries attended the meeting. The UNHCR asked to step up and help in an extraordinary basis the resettlement of the MeK members, he said. A number of countries indicated they were willing to do so, he noted but declined to name those countries. "The Iraqi government was represented at a senior level and we applause the fact that the Iraqi government approached the matter in such a constructive spirit. They too made clear that they want to see resettlement of the people in a peaceful manner outside Iraq," Fried said. "Both the US and European countries have started a process of reviewing individuals at Camp Hurriye. There has been some progress. We have been in touch with countries outside Europe. But it is true that a great many residents at Camp Hurriye were formally residing in Europe. They have long standing ties to Europe," he said.

The US official noted that Camp Ashraf has been effectively closed and that over 3000 people have moved peacefully to Camp Hurriye near the Baghdad international airport. He explained that 200 people remain in Camp Ashraf with agreement of the Iraqi government. One hundred people were supposed to leave by end of September and the other 100 will leave pending settlement of issues such as properties. The UNHCR is interviewing them one by one and making refugee status determination, he said. "Our purpose is humanitarian and not a political act," he stressed as well as the US State Department continues to have "serious concern about the MeK as an organisation."

Asked if the MEK can play some kind of a political role in the future to resolve the Iranian crisis, he replied "they think they have a role but the United States does not think so."

Meanwhile, the Paris-based leader of MeK, Maryam Rajavi, is expected to speak at the European Parliament in Brussels today afternoon.

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