New York Times: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Wednesday that a decision on whether to remove an Iranian opposition group from the list of terrorist organizations would depend in part on whether more than 3,000 of its members cooperate in moving to a new location inside Iraq.
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Wednesday that a decision on whether to remove an Iranian opposition group from the list of terrorist organizations would depend in part on whether more than 3,000 of its members cooperate in moving to a new location inside Iraq.
The group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, is under pressure from the Iraqi government to move from Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, where it was given territory by Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader. Under an agreement negotiated by the United Nations, it has begun a move to a former American base near the Baghdad airport. United Nations officials have said they hope to find permanent homes for the exiles outside Iraq, where government forces have had several bloody clashes with the group, also known as the M.E.K.
In a statement from Paris on Thursday, Maryam Rajavi, the group’s leader in exile, reacted cautiously to Mrs. Clinton’s remarks. Ms. Rajavi said that while she thought that making the terrorist designation contingent on relocation was “unwarranted in principle and in law,” the two could proceed simultaneously.
But in a sign of the recalcitrance that has disturbed American officials, Mrs. Rajavi called conditions at the new location “atrocious” and compared it to a concentration camp. The statement also noted political support for dropping the terrorist designation in the United States, noting that 98 House members co-sponsored a resolution urging Mrs. Clinton to remove the label.
In mid-February about 397 members of the group made the move to the new location. “There were complications, but it was peaceful,” Mrs. Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
But about 2,800 people remain at Camp Ashraf, and the group’s leaders have complained about conditions in the new location. American officials, who say the group has refused to occupy one building, blocked water trucks and resisted the opening of a clinic, are concerned that the group may balk at completing the move.
Mrs. Clinton told the committee that “M.E.K. cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf” will be “a key factor in any decision” on its longstanding request that the State Department lift its terrorist designation. She did not elaborate, but an administration official said her remarks were meant to be a strong signal to the group that it must improve cooperation.
Lawyers for the organization went to court this week seeking to speed a State Department decision on the terrorist label for the group, which has a history of terrorism but says it long ago renounced violence. It has recruited a long list of prominent former American officials to endorse the cause, many of whom have been paid generous speaking fees by the group’s supporters.