Iranian exile group under new pressure

14 12 2009

Iraq announced plans Thursday to move members of an Iranian opposition group to a former desert detention camp in a sharp escalation of pressure on a faction that poses complications for both Baghdad and Washington.

The group, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, denounced the plans as intended to force its members to leave Iraq.

About 3,500 members of the group, which was hosted in Iraq for years by Saddam Hussein, have been under watch at a camp in northeastern Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. But Iraqi authorities have taken an increasingly hard line toward Camp Ashraf, including a raid by security forces in July that touched off a melee in which 11 people were reportedly killed.

Washington lists the MEK as a terrorist organization and keeps its distance from Iraq’s efforts to break up the group, which opposes Iran’s ruling clerics. But some U.S. officials have expressed worry that Iraq’s plan to forcibly move the group could lead to violence.

Iraqi leaders would face an outcry from the West if they deport the exiles to their homeland, where they are considered enemies of the state. But Iraq’s Shiite-led government also does not want to continue to host the group and risk souring its relations with Iran, a Shiite power.

— Associated Press



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