Iraq PM hints at expelling Iran opposition group ,

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says he is looking for ways to end the presence in his country of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran.

"The presence in the country of this organization violates the constitution," he told a press conference on Wednesday, accusing the organization of interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.

"This organization has been behaving as though it is an Iraqi organization," he added, emphasizing that it is labeled as a terrorist organization in the United States and the European Union.

Maliki said the cabinet decided at a meeting Wednesday to restrict the movements of PMOI members to their base at Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border, and to prevent them from contacting government officials.

The government will also form a committee to decide whether to allow them to remain in Iraq or find a country to exile them to.

Iran has publicly complained about the continuing presence of the PMOI across its border.

Under the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, the PMOI was supplied with weapons and tanks and periodically carried out armed incursions against Iran as well as helped Iraqi forces put down rebellious Shiites in 1991.

US forces confiscated the organization’s weapons following the March 2003 US-led invasion, taking away some 300 tanks, many of which were subsequently given to the Iraqi armed forces.

The estimated 3,000 PMOI members are now under a kind of US-supervised house arrest at Camp Ashraf, which is mainly for their protection against hostile population on both sides of the border.

The group’s activities are supported by its political wing, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) which has offices in France and Germany and carries out lobbying efforts against the Iranian government.

While the PMOI is characterized as a terrorist group by the United States and EU, it has many supporters in the US Congress and British parliament.

AFP    Wed Jul 19

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