Saturday, 28 February 2009

Iran urges Iraq to expel opposition group

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday urged visiting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to expel Iran's main opposition group from Iraqi territory, the ISNA news agency reported.

"We await the implementation of our agreement regarding the expulsion of the hypocrites," he said, using a term the Islamic republic uses to describe the main opposition group in exile, the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI).

He did not elaborate, but in late January Iraq's national security adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie said in Tehran that Baghdad planned to extradite armed Iranian opposition members who have "Iranian blood on their hands."

"The only choices open to members of this group are to return to Iran or to choose another country... these people will themselves choose where they want to go," Rubaie told reporters at the time.

Founded in 1965 with the aim of overthrowing first the US-backed shah and then the Islamic regime in Iran, the PMOI has in the past operated an armed group inside Iran.

It was the armed wing of the France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) but it renounced violence in June 2001.

ISNA said Khamenei also slammed a January decision by the European Union to remove the PMOI from the EU list of terror groups following a legal battle in Britain.

He said the move "shows being a terrorist is an contractual issue and is not based on reality. Nonetheless they are not ready to accept them into their countries."

The agency quoted Talabani as saying in his talks with Khamenei that the PMOI "have committed many crimes against the Iraqis, and Iraqi government is determined to expel them and will go forward with its decision."

Baghdad announced on December 21 it planned to close Ashraf camp north of Baghdad and close to the Iranian border, where around 3,500 PMOI members are held under a form of house arrest.

On January 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki went further and said he would expel the PMOI from the country.


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