UN, Iraq agree to temporary relocation of Iranian exiles
WASHINGTON - The United States on Sunday welcomed a deal signed by Iraq and the United Nations to resettle some 3,400 Iranian dissidents while their refugee status is determined.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the deal marks an "important step toward a humane resolution to the ongoing situation at (Camp) Ashraf," where the dissidents have lived since the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
"We are encouraged by the Iraqi government's willingness to commit to this plan, and expect it to fulfill all its responsibilities, especially the elements of the (agreement) that provide for the safety and security of Ashraf's residents," Clinton said in a statement.
"All those who want to see the people at Camp Ashraf safe and secure should work together to see that the agreed upon plan is carried out."
She added that US embassy officials would visit the new site "regularly and frequently" in support of the UN plan.
The agreement was signed by UN envoy Martin Kobler and Iraqi National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh.
It did not give the location which the residents would be moved to or provide a timeline, but Clinton said the dissidents would be moved to Camp Liberty, a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport.
Maliki has said Camp Ashraf -- in the Diyala province, north of Baghdad -- will now close in April, rather than at the end of this year.
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein allowed the People's Mujahedeen -- an Iranian rebel group -- to set up the camp during the 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 American forces handed over security responsibilities for the site to Baghdad in January 2009.
The camp has been back in the spotlight since a controversial April raid by Iraqi security forces left at least 34 people dead and scores injured.