February 23, 2018

Decision to close Iran exile camp ‘irreversible’: Iraq PM


Iranian-Americans wave banners and shout slogans against Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri-al-Maliki December 13, 2011 near the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. Simultaneous with the visit of Maliki, to the Chamber of Commerce, Iranian-Americans and relatives of the 3400 Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf held a rally against Maliki and his plans to, at behest of the Iranian regime, close Camp Ashraf and forcibly relocate its residents by the end of the year. The family members of Ashraf residents and Iranian-Americans believe this would prelude a massacre of defenseless residents of the camp. Iraqi Armed Forces, under the command of Maliki, violently attacked Camp Ashraf twice -- in July 2009 and in April 2011 -- killing 47 and wounding more than 1,000 unarmed residents. Iranian-Americans believe Maliki should be held accountable for the crimes he committed against humanity. The residents of Camp Ashraf signed an agreement with the US Government in 2003, guaranteeing their protection until their final disposition. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s decision to close a camp housing Iranian dissidents by year-end is “irreversible,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told AFP on Thursday, rejecting UN calls for a delay to avoid bloodshed.

Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, houses some 3,400 Iranian refugees hostile to the regime in Tehran. It is controlled by the People’s Mujahedeen, which Washington blacklists as a terrorist group.

“The decision we made is irreversible, especially because this organisation 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 responsiblity to the Baghdad authorities in January 2009.

The Iraqi government says the camp is a threat to its relations with neighbouring Iran and is demanding that it close 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 UN Security Council, appealing to the international community to find new homes for the exiles.

In Paris, an exile Iranian group challenged Maliki’s statement that UN officials were not allowed to visit the camp.

“Last week, UN representatives were able to enter Ashraf two times,” said Mohamad Mohadessine, an official of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group opposed to the Tehran regime.

“By these abject lies, Maliki does nothing other than prepare the terrain for a massacre of the residents of Ashraf and to counter muliple international apeals to delay the closing of Ashraf,” he added in a statement.

The camp has been in the spotlight since a controversial April raid by Iraqi security forces left at least 36 people dead and scores injured. Residents said the Iraqi forces attacked them.