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Iraqi Official Says Iranian Dissident Exiles To Be Relocated


PRAGUE -- Iraq's deputy foreign minister says Iranian exiles living at a camp in Iraq may soon be allowed to leave for other countries or return to Iran without worrying about persecution.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, Labid Majid Abbawi said the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq will be transferred to another camp until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) completes the necessary paperwork so that the Iranian refugees "can be sent to any country of their desire."

He said they would also have the opportunity to return to Iran.

"For those who would like to go back to their own country, to Iran, we have made all the necessary measures -- even an agreement with the Iranian government -- that those people will go on a voluntary basis, will be received, will be pardoned, and there will be no legal action taken against them," Abbawi said.

Iraqi SWAT forces stand guard outside Camp Ashraf during a protest on December 9 by Iraqis calling for the camp to be closed and for its residents to be deported.

Iraqi SWAT forces stand guard outside Camp Ashraf during a protest on December 9 by Iraqis calling for the camp to be closed and for its residents to be deported.

The International Committee of the Red Cross welcomed what it said was Iraq's decision not to transfer Camp Ashraf residents to Iran against their will.

Earlier this month, European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Iraqi authorities to secure a "satisfactory outcome" in the relocation of the 3,400 Iranian dissidents due to be expelled from the camp.

Camp Ashraf has been home to members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, aka People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran) since the 1980s.

MKO exiles in Europe have argued that the closing of the camp is a plot designed by Tehran to eliminate dissidents.

The United Nations has appealed to the Iraq government to delay its planned December 31 closing of the camp.

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