Middle East News
Iran welcomes Iraqi raid on exile camp
Jul 29, 2009, 7:49 GMT
Tehran - Iran on Wednesday welcomed an Iraqi raid on a camp housing opposition Iranian exiles who Tehran considers rebels.
Iraqi forces on Tuesday occupied the Ashraf camp of the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) about 60 kilometres north of Baghdad. Iran said the camp was closed and its estimated 3,500 residents told to either return to Iran or seek asylum in a third country.
'Although the move by the Iraqi government came late, it is still welcomed that Iraqi territory has been cleared of terrorists,' Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said, according to a report by the Mehr news agency.
Iran regards PMOI as a terrorist group after implicating it in the assassinations of several high-ranking Iranian officials, including the president and prime minister in 1980.
The United States also has listed the PMOI as a terrorist group, but it was removed from the European Union's terrorism list this year after a legal battle.
The PMOI said 49 people were hurt in the raid on the camp, which Iraq has long wanted to close. The group has said it was ready to return to Iran if Tehran would agree not to prosecute or persecute its members.
The group was expelled from France in the 1980s, after which Iraq's then-president, Saddam Hussein, allocated a military base to the PMOI near the border with Iran.
Iran has said that before Saddam was ousted, the PMOI frequently infiltrated Iranian territory, leading to clashes with Iranian forces and casualties on both sides.
After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US military disarmed the group and was responsible for protecting it in the face of sectarian violence throughout Iraq, but in the summer of 2008, this responsibility was handed over to the Iraqi army.