Reuters: The Iraqi government may extend a year-end deadline for more than 3,000 residents of an Iranian dissident camp to leave Iraq if a quick solution is found to resolve the issue of where they should go, a Baghdad government advisor said on Thursday.
By Waleed Ibrahim
BAGHDAD, Nov 3 (Reuters) – The Iraqi government may extend a year-end deadline for more than 3,000 residents of an Iranian dissident camp to leave Iraq if a quick solution is found to resolve the issue of where they should go, a Baghdad government advisor said on Thursday.
The future of Camp Ashraf, a base of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran in a rural area northeast of Baghdad, became uncertain after the United States, which considers the PMOI a terrorist organisation, turned the camp over to the Iraqi government in 2009.
The 25-year-old settlement has seen bloody clashes between residents and Iraqi security forces and Baghdad has repeatedly said it does not want the guerrilla group on Iraqi soil.
“Calling for more time without taking practical measures to find a solution does not solve this issue,” George Bakoos, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s political advisor said at a news conference after meeting United Nations and European officials.
“But if there are quick measures that will be taken with the help of international partners to achieve this goal, the Iraqi government will make a decision,” he said.
The European Union in September named a senior Belgian diplomat to work with the United Nations, Iraq and others to resolve the issue of the camp.
Ashraf has been a sore spot for the United States, Iraq and Iran for years. All three consider the PMOI a terrorist group.
Rights group Amnesty International says the residents are subject to harassment by the Iraqi government and are denied access to basic medicine. More than 30 residents were killed in a clash with Iraqi security forces in April.
Amnesty on Tuesday urged Iraq’s government to extend the year-end deadline.
U.N. Special Representative to Iraq Martin Kobler said on Thursday the U.N. was working on a solution to resettle Camp Ashraf’s residents.
Washington has proposed moving Ashraf residents temporarily to a new location in Iraq but the PMOI rejected this, saying it would lead to a massacre.
Camp Ashraf spokesman Shahriar Kia said any extension to the deadline would be welcome and called on the U.N. to protect the camp’s residents from violence.
“We want the deadline to be cancelled so the UNHCR and the international organisations would have enough time to resolve the issue of refugee status and the transfer of all Ashraf residents to third countries,” Kia told Reuters.
The PMOI was sheltered in Iraq by former dictator Saddam Hussein and some of its guerrillas fought with him against Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The group surrendered its weapons to U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam. (Editing by Serena Chaudhry and Jon Hemming)