|U.S. urges MKO to leave Camp Ashraf||
TEHRAN -- The United States has called on members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization to follow through with plans to close Camp New Iraq, which was formerly known as Camp Ashraf.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged the group on Monday to resume transferring its members from the Camp Ashraf base to a converted U.S. military facility under an Iraqi government plan to eventually expel them from the country, Reuters reported.
“The peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf is achievable,” Nuland said in a statement.
“Constructive offers must be met with a constructive spirit, and not with refusals or preconditions to engage in dialogue,” she wrote.
The MKO started its activities as a terrorist group based in Iraq in the early 1980s. In addition to the assassination of hundreds of Iranian officials and citizens, the group cooperated with Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in its repression of the Iraqi people.
The United States added the MKO to its official list of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, but the group has since said that it has renounced violence and has mounted a legal and public relations campaign to have its terrorist designation dropped.
U.S. officials say that about 1,200 to 1,400 residents remain at Camp Ashraf, while about 2,000 have relocated to the new base outside of Baghdad since transfers began in February.
A U.S. appeals court this month ordered U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide within four months whether to drop the MKO from the terrorist list, and U.S. officials have signaled that closing Camp Ashraf is a necessary first step.
U.S. officials said on Monday that the transferring process appeared stalemated.
The MKO stopped convoys of Camp Ashraf residents to the new facility in early May and has reduced contact with the Iraqi government and with UN authorities seeking to process MKO members as potential refugees, they said.
“We don’t know why the MEK slowdown is underway,” said a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official added that the group’s leaders may have overinterpreted the U.S. court ruling as a guarantee that it would escape the terrorist list.
A group of senior Iraqi officials involved in the relocation process is due in Europe this week to urge European governments to accept more former residents of Camp Ashraf as refugees, the U.S. officials said.
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