Closure of Camp Ashraf irreversible: Maliki

Iraq's decision to close Camp Ashraf by year-end is "irreversible," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told AFP on Thursday, rejecting UN calls for a delay to avoid bloodshed.

"The decision we made is irreversible, especially because this organization refused the visit of a UN representative to Camp Ashraf," Maliki said.

"They've rejected the UN plan, which means this is a criminal gang and we cannot permit a criminal gang to remain here," he added.

Saddam Hussein allowed the rebel People's Mujahedeen to set up the camp when his forces were at war with Iran in the 1980s. When Saddam was overthrown in the US-led invasion of 2003, the camp came under US military protection but US forces handed over security responsibility to the Baghdad authorities in January 2009.

The camp is a threat to Iraqi people, and they demand that it close as soon as possible, thus the Iraqi government vowed to shut it down by December 31. But last week the United Nations appealed for an extension to the deadline to allow more time for a solution to be negotiated with the camp's residents who are refusing to move unless they are given UN protection. The positions of the residents and the government "remain far apart," the UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the Security Council, appealing to the international community to find new homes for the exiles.