US: Iranian Dissident Group Must Complete Move From Iraqi Base

Posted July 7th, 2012 at 12:55 am (UTC-5)
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The United States has warned an Iranian dissident group that time is running short for it to vacate its Iraqi exile camp.

A U.S. counter-terrorism official, Daniel Benjamin, said Friday the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, or MEK, must complete its move from Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, by the July 20 deadline set by Iraq's government.

He said finishing the move by that date will be a key factor in the decision by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on whether to remove the group from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, which she is required to make by October 1.

A U.N.-Iraq deal calls for all members of the People's Mujahedeen to relocate from Camp Ashraf to another location near Baghdad.

Some 2,000 MEK members have left Camp Ashraf, but officials say up to 1,300 remain. The MEK has insisted that the Iraqi government meet numerous humanitarian demands before the rest of their members relocate.

Iraq gave the People's Mujahedeen shelter after the Iranian revolution in 1979, but has accused some members of the group of helping former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein crush a Shi'ite revolt about 20 years ago.

Iraq's Shi'ite-led government came to power after the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The People's Mujahedeen led a guerilla campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s that included attacks on U.S. targets. After the 1979 Islamic revolution it campaigned against Iran's clerical rulers.

The U.S. added the People's Mujahedeen to its list of terrorist groups in 1997, but the MEK has since renounced violence.

In addition to the U.S., both Iran and Iraq consider the MEK a terrorist group.