Iraq PM accuses Iran opposition group of meddling

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday accused the main Iranian opposition group, which has been based in Iraq for the past 20 years, of meddling in his country’s affairs and suggested it could face expulsion.

Nuri al-Maliki said the Mujahideen Khalq, which is dedicated to toppling Iran’s Islamist government, had become too involved in political and social issues in Iraq.

"It is interfering as if it is an Iraqi organisation despite the fact that it is considered to be one of the terrorist organisations and its presence in the country contradicts the constitution," Maliki told a news conference.

"The cabinet has taken decisions on this matter and the group will be informed."

A Mujahideen Khalq statement said its members are protected under the Geneva Convention and that their safety therefore was the responsibility of the US-led forces.

"Any action against the (Mujahideen) represents nothing but the demands and wishes of the theocracy ruling Iran that have been conveyed to the Iraqi Prime Minister," said the statement.

The group, in a statement sent to Reuters in Dubai, urged the international community to intervene against what it described as pressure by Tehran’s "evil regime" on Baghdad.

A Mujahideen spokesman said earlier the group had not been informed by Baghdad it may have to leave Iraq, whose Shi’ite-led government has significantly improved ties with non-Arab, Shi’ite Iran.

Iraqi Sunnis, once dominant under Saddam Hussein, have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq’s affairs and are likely to interpret any expulsion of the Mujahideen as a result of pressure from the Tehran government.

The Mujahideen, who have carried out attacks inside Iran, were believed to have received military support from Saddam, whose troops fought the Islamic Republic in the 1980s.

But their fortunes changed after a US-led invasion toppled the former Iraqi leader in 2003. US forces bombed their bases and the group handed over its weapons.

The group has many supporters in Europe and North America.

Its members in Iraq, believed to number about 4,000, are based at Ashraf Camp, north of Baghdad.

The Mujahideen Khalq are on a US list of terrorist organisations.

Stuff (New Zealand) –  July 20, 2006

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