AFP: The exiled Iranian opposition on Tuesday celebrated being taken off the EU's terror list and called for the United States to do the same, arguing it is Tehran that should be sanctioned.
BRUSSELS (AFP) — The exiled Iranian opposition on Tuesday celebrated being taken off the EU's terror list and called for the United States to do the same, arguing it is Tehran that should be sanctioned.
"The European Union has conceded to the rule of law," Maryam Rajavi, the president of the the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), told reporters as a crowd of supporters thronged to celebrate victory outside the main EU buildings in Brussels.
"The time has come to place the illegitimate regime on the terrorist list," she added.
The European Union struck the main Iranian opposition group in exile from its list of terrorist organisations Monday but refused to rule out future action against it.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, rubber-stamped a decision to drop the PMOI from the blacklist, bringing an end to a long legal battle, even though the move has angered Tehran.
The Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance ruled last month that the EU had wrongly frozen the funds of the opposition group and violated its rights by not justifying why it was placed on the list.
It was the third such ruling by Europe's second-highest tribunal.
It may not be the end of the story for the group, which was placed on the terror lists in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
France has announced that it would appeal the tribunal's ruling.
The EU's move to drop the PMOI from its terror list followed a similar legal battle and result in Britain which has done the same.
However, the group remains on the US list and is now turning its eyes to the new US administration of President Barack Obama to remove the "unjust label" of terrorist group.
"The PMOI should be removed from the United States terror list, this is the best policy even for negotiations with the mullah regime," said Rajavi, referring to Iran.
"The new US administration must not give more concessions to the mullah regime. The new government must stop them with regard to their project for nuclear weapons and the war-mongering in the Middle East and the oppression of the Iranian people."
Iran on Monday angrily condemned the EU's removal of the PMOI from its terror blacklist, accusing the bloc of "encouraging terrorism."
Brussels police estimated that some 2,000 supporters turned out for the noisy celebration in the Belgian capital, far fewer than the organisers had predicted but enough to close down part of the road outside the European Council building.
One of the organisers, Shahid Gobadi, estimated that 15,000 supporters had taken part in the celebrations throughout the day.
"I think the policy of appeasement has been crushed," he said. "The wheels of change will start now."
Rajavi was joined at her platform by European parliamentarians who have supported her group's cause over the years, with interventions from British, Belgian, French and Italian lawmakers among others.
For one of those, European Parliament vice president Alejo Vidal-Quadras, the removal of the group from the EU's black list put an end to an ignominous chapter in EU history.
"Today I feel proud to be a European, because during all this fight I was not so proud sometimes," he said.
Founded in 1965 with the aim of replacing first the shah and then the Islamic clerical regime in Iran, the PMOI — led by Rajavi, who lives in France — has in the past operated an armed group inside Iran.
It was the armed wing of the France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) but it renounced violence in June 2001.