MKO pays US figures to get off blacklist

The anti-Iran terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) is reportedly paying tens of thousands of dollars to US heavyweights to advocate the group's removal from the US list of foreign terrorist groups.

In a surprisingly well-funded lobbying campaign, dozens of former political officials have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak at events organized by supporters of the terrorist organization in the US, The Financial Times reported Friday.

The individuals include John Bolton, George W. Bush's ambassador to the UN; Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman; Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor; Jim Jones, President Barack Obama's first national security adviser; Wesley Clark, retired army general, and Tom Ridge, the first Homeland Security Secretary, the report added.

Lee Hamilton, former Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and Michael Mukasey, Attorney-General for the last Bush administration, both revealed that they had been paid for speaking at such events.

General Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Clinton administration, also confirmed he was paid, along with other officials, including Louis Freeh, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and General James Conway, the former Marine Corps commandant, to speak at an MKO-linked conference in Washington.

Several people familiar with MKO's offers said that the pay scale ranged from $20,000 to $100,000 per speech, plus travel expenses.

Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor, said he received $20,000 for an 11-minute speech while a former US official said he was offered $30,000 plus first-class air fare to show up at an MKO-linked event in Europe.

The group has also hired Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a lobbying firm, to persuade members of US Congress to support the terrorist organization's objectives. Several $100,000-plus newspaper advertisements had been taken out, FT added.

The MKO is listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community and is responsible for numerous acts of terror and violence against Iranian civilians and government officials.

The United States designated the MKO a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

The group has appealed to be taken off the list, claiming that it renounced terrorism in 2001. This is while the group has been confirmed to be involved in or behind several terrorist attacks against Iranian citizens since then.

The US Department of State is due to make a ruling on the status of the group next month.