Zebari: Iraq in Talks with Iran over Future of MKO

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country is in talks with Tehran to decide a future for the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).

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"We have proposed the formation of a joint committee between Iran, Iraq and the (International Committee of the) Red Cross to resolve the issue (of the MKO) at Camp Ashraf," Zebari said at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi.

The committee "will discuss the requests of the members of this group who live in Camp Ashraf, particularly those who seek to return to Iran without any pressure or difficulty," Zebari said.

Iraqi security forces took control of the training base of the MKO at Camp Ashraf - about 60km (37 miles) north of Baghdad - in 2009 and detained dozens of the members of the terrorist group.The Iraqi authority also changed the name of the military center from Camp Ashraf to the Camp of New Iraq.

"We have asked international organizations and European parliaments to encourage the (group's) members to leave Iraq, and to facilitate (the movement of) those members who seek to go to those countries," Zebari said. He insisted the Iraqi government is adamant that the base be shut down by the end of the year.

The MKO has been in Iraq's Diyala province since the 1980s. Iraq's legislative officials announced earlier this month that the country's parliament and government agreed to set up a committee to pursue expulsion of the anti-Iran terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) from Iraq.

Member of Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Commission Hassan al-Sanid said that the issue was raised in a meeting between the commission and the country's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

"The commission and Nour al-Maliki have agreed to form a committee to pursue the MKO's dossier and their rapid expulsion," Sanid told the Kurdistan News Agency. The lawmaker added that the committee will go on with the mission in coordination with the Iranian and Iraqi governments.

Iraqi people have long staged protest rallies in front of the MKO's main training camp in the Northern Diyala province to condemn the US-backed presence of the terrorist group in their country.

In a most recent case, a group of Iraqi people gathered outside Camp Ashraf in May, and called for the expulsion of the terrorist group from the country's soil. The demonstrators gather outside the Camp of New Iraq (formerly known as Camp Ashraf) in Iraq's northern province of Diyala and demanded that the terrorist group be removed from their country.

The Baghdad government has assured the Iraqi people that it is determined to expel the MKO from Iraq by the end of 2011. Meantime, media reports said that the US is trying to convince Iraqi officials to relocate the MKO members within Iraq.

Under the US plan, the approximately 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf would be temporarily relocated within Iraq, farther from the border with Iran, a US State Department official announced. Since the beginning of this year, the Baghdad government has repeatedly assured Iranian officials and people that it is determined to expel the MKO from Iraq by the end of 2011.

"Expulsion of the MKO from Iraq's soil and termination of its presence which has lasted for several years is a definite decision," Iraqi Government Spokesman Ali Al-Dabbaq told FNA in April, adding, "The MKO will be expelled from Iraq by the end of the current year." He added: "The only option for the members of the MKO is leaving Iraq and they have no other choice".

The MKO, whose main stronghold is in Iraq, is blacklisted by much of the international community, including the United States.

Before an overture by the EU, the MKO was on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations subject to an EU-wide assets freeze. Yet, the MKO puppet leader, Maryam Rajavi, who has residency in France, regularly visited Brussels and despite the ban enjoyed full freedom in Europe.

The MKO is behind a slew of assassinations and bombings inside Iran, a number of EU parliamentarians said in a recent letter in which they slammed a British court decision to remove the MKO from the British terror list. The EU officials also added that the group has no public support within Iran because of their role in helping Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988).

Many of the MKO members abandoned the terrorist organization while most of those still remaining in the camp are said to be willing to quit but are under pressure and torture not to do so.

A May 2005 Human Rights Watch report accused the MKO of running prison camps in Iraq and committing human rights violations. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the outlawed group puts defectors under torture and jail terms.

The group, founded in the 1960s, blended elements of Islamism and Stalinism and participated in the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979. Ahead of the revolution, the MKO conducted attacks and assassinations against both Iranian and Western targets.

Leaders of the group have been fighting to shed its terrorist tag after a series of bloody anti-Western attacks in the 1970s, and nearly 30 years of violent struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In recent months, high-ranking MKO members have been lobbying governments around the world in the hope of acknowledgement as a legitimate opposition group.

The UK initiative, however, prompted the European Union to establish relations with the exiled organization now based in Paris. The European Court of First Instance threw its weight behind the MKO in December and annulled its previous decision to freeze its funds.

The group started assassination of the citizens and officials after the revolution in a bid to take control of the newly established Islamic Republic. It killed several of Iran's new leaders in the early years after the revolution, including the then President, Mohammad Ali Rajayee, Prime Minister, Mohammad Javad Bahonar and the Judiciary Chief, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti who was killed in bomb attacks by MKO members in 1981.

The group fled to Iraq in 1986, where it was protected by Saddam Hussein and where it helped the Iraqi dictator suppress Shiite and Kurd uprisings in the country.

The terrorist group joined Saddam's army during the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988) and helped Saddam and killed thousands of Iranian civilians and soldiers during the US-backed Iraqi imposed war on Iran.

Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the group, which now adheres to a pro-free-market philosophy, has been strongly backed by neo-conservatives in the United States, who also argue for the MKO to be taken off the US terror list.


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