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Iran opposition slams Iraq resettlement plan

world Updated: Mar 28, 2009 14:01 IST

An Iranian oppposition group which has long taken refuge in Iraq reacted angrily on Saturday to plans by Baghdad to resettle their militants if they do not leave the country voluntarily.Iraqi national security advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie said on Friday the 3,000 members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) should leave the camp where they have been living for two decades, describing them as "foreign terrorists."

But the People's Mujahedeen said that such a forcible transfer would be "absolutely illegal" and that the militants would never leave Ashraf, a camp lying north of Baghdad and only 80 kilometres (50 miles) from border with Iran."It is setting the stage for a human catastrophe," the group said in a statement, describing Iraq's plans as a violation of international humanitarian law.

Rubaie said "their days in Iraq are numbered" but that Baghdad was looking for alternative sites for the People's Mujahedeen in the south or west of the country."We don't want them because it is a matter of friction with Iran. We don't want that," he said. Formed in 1965 in opposition to the rule of the US-backed shah, the PMOI joined in the 1979 Islamic revolution but later took up arms against the new clerical regime.It killed several of Iran's new leaders in the first years after the revolution and backed then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his 1980-1988 war against Iran. Major attacks by the group ceased by the early 1990s.

Following the fall of Saddam in 2003, the US military took control of the camp. While designating the PMOI as a terrorist organisation, it also gave the camp's residents "protected persons" status.The Americans turned control of the camp over to Iraq at the beginning of this year. The PMOI was removed from the European Union list of terror organisations in January.