June 27, 2017

US urges EU to shelter Iran dissidents stranded in Iraq

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

BRUSSELS — A US official urged European nations Wednesday to offer shelter to Iranian dissidents housed for decades in a camp in Iraq and last week removed from a Washington terrorist blacklist.

US Ambassador Daniel Fried told a media briefing he was in Europe for talks in Geneva and in Brussels on relocating some 3,200 members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran who were settled in Iraq some 30 years ago.

On Iraq’s insistence, some 3,000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) have been moved out of their historic paramilitary camp of the 1980s — Camp Ashraf — to a transit camp close to Baghdad called Camp Liberty.

But “moving people from one place in Iraq to another place in Iraq will not solve the problem,” Fried said. “The issue will be resolved when the residents are out of Iraq.”

The US official said that at talks in Geneva the previous day, the United States and a number of European countries had agreed to resettle the Iranians “in a spirit of solidarity and burden-sharing.”

Both Washington and European officials had begun reviewing the exiles at Camp Liberty “but it’s true that a great many were formerly residing in Europe,” he said in a plea to move forward with resettlement.

He also said a US decision Friday to remove the group from its blacklist of designated terror groups “had nothing to do with our differences with Iran.”

“The Department of State has serious concerns about MEK as an organisation,” he said. “Our interest in the MEK is purely humanitarian, our interest is in the individuals who are in Camp Liberty, not in the MEK as an organisation.”

He said some 200 members of the group had been authorised by the Iraqis to remain in Camp Ashraf until the end of last month to sell off vehicles and property but that 100 were due to leave shortly.

Asked whether there was a deadline for the last group of 100 to leave, he said there was “no time limit. However the Iraqis have made the very valid point that the sooner the process of resettlement starts the better.

“It’s important that both the Iraqi government and MEK see that the international community is ready to step up and help these people,” he said, praising Baghdad’s patience throughout a months-long process of emptying Camp Ashraf.

Also visiting Brussels, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi urged European Union nations to “end the policy of appeasement with the criminal rulers of Iran” who were supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while working on building nuclear arms.

“From the West we seek neither money nor weapons, We only want the West to be neutral,” she said.

A statement issued later by European parliamentarians gathered in the Friends of a Free Iran group accused the Iraqi authorities of planning “to plunder” assets of the group left behind at Camp Ashraf.

Saying the camp was the product of the work of thousands of people over 26 years and was worth 500 million dollars, the MEPs said after meeting Rajavi that Baghdad “intends to plunder Ashraf residents’ property and actively prevents their transfer and sale.”

“The US and the EU must force the government of Iraq to stop putting any further pressure on them and to recognize their ownership rights and allow them to sell their movable and immovable properties,” the statement said.

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