Iraq says Iran mujahedeen must leave by year end

Branded as terrorists by Washington, PMOI is guarded by US troops

Iraq said on Monday that the exiled Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedeen of Iran must leave the country by the end of this year, after a deadly weekend assault on the PMOI's base.
"The council of ministers has committed to implement an earlier decision about disbanding the terrorist group People's Mujahedeen of Iran, by the end of this year at the latest, and the necessity of getting it out of Iraq," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
He said the ministers had decided the PMOI would be made to leave Iraq "by using all means, including political, diplomatic, and cooperation with the United Nations and international organisations."
Dabbagh said Iraq was "taking into consideration the wish of the PMOI members to choose the country in which they wish to reside."
Monday's move followed an Iraqi army raid on the group's Ashraf camp north of Baghdad on Saturday, in which the PMOI says 34 members were killed and 300 wounded in clashes. Iraqi security and hospital sources said three were killed.
The group, which opposes Iran's clerical Islamic regime, had initially reported 31 deaths, but later said three wounded later died, the last late on Monday.
The PMOI used Camp Ashraf, which houses some 3,500 people, as a base for launching attacks on Iran during the rule of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but US forces disarmed the group after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Since then the camp’s residents have been protected under the Geneva Convention and were guarded by US troops, although Washington still officially considers the PMOI to be a terrorist organisation.
An Iraqi police official said on Monday the authorities are interrogating six members of the rebel group who were arrested after the clashes.
"Six members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran were arrested and are being questioned at the Khalis prison," the police official said.
The jail is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Camp Ashraf.
The rebels say that Iraqi security forces had the camp surrounded, and were refusing access to journalists or humanitarian aid for the wounded.
The US military acknowledged it was initially denied access for medical assistance, but said late Sunday a medical team had finally been allowed in to "provide any essential humanitarian medical assistance that may be required."
"The results of this medical assistance and our assessment of medical conditions is being provided to the Iraqi government, which will authorise any further assistance that may be required," the military said in a statement.
"As our entrance into the camp was purely for humanitarian purposes on behalf of the Iraqi government, we will only provide the results of that visit to Iraqi officials," it added.
After the clashes, the United States said it was urging Iraqi officials "at the highest levels" to avoid violence and show restraint.
Asked about a PMOI claim on Monday that Iraq was preventing UN officials from entering Ashraf, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq commented only that "arrangements are being made for UNAMI to visit Ashraf camp this week."
A left-wing Islamic movement, the PMOI was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah of Iran and subsequently fought to oust the clerical regime that took power in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iran, which has jailed or executed many members of the outlawed organisation, on Saturday hailed Iraq's raid on Ashraf.