Iranian Exile Group Must Quit Camp in Iraq, U.S. Says

The U.S. State Department will decide whether to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization from a list of terrorist groups based in large part on whether the Iranian dissident group agrees to vacate a camp in Iraq, an official said.

Movement out of Camp Ashraf in Iraq to a temporary transit point “will be a key factor” in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision on the future status of the group known as the MEK, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, told reporters on a conference call yesterday.

Clinton was ordered by a U.S. Court of Appeals last month to decide by Oct. 1 if the Iranian group should remain on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations. The MEK was implicated in the assassination of seven U.S. citizens in the 1970s and other acts of violence.

The group’s camp about 35 miles (57 kilometers) north of Baghdad is home to Iranian exiles who advocate the overthrow of the Islamic regime in Tehran. The Iraqi government has said the camp must be vacated by July 20.

The group’s “relocation will assist the secretary in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind,” Benjamin said.

The MEK found a home in Iraq at the invitation of the country’s former dictator Saddam Hussein, who supplied the group with weapons during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the Washington Post reported July 5.

The MEK has enlisted former top U.S. officials to lobby President Barack Obama’s administration to lift the U.S. ban on the group and has paid a number of them travel and speaking fees, the Post reported. The group also has pursued an advertising campaign in Washington calling for its removal from the terrorist list.

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