UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Iraqi government and an Iranian opposition group that was given refuge in the country during Saddam Hussein's rule on Monday to work together to peacefully complete the group's relocation without further delay.
Nearly 2,000 members of The People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran have moved from Camp Ashraf in northwestern Iraq to Camp Hurriya on the deserted former U.S. military base outside Baghdad known as Camp Liberty. But about 1,300 have refused to go until the Iraqi government meets their humanitarian demands, including the transfer of air conditioners, power generators, trucks and other items to their new location.
They had been living in exile at Camp Ashraf in Iraq since Saddam welcomed them three decades ago in a common fight against Iran. But they are now being pressured to leave by the new Iraqi government, whose Shiite officials want to build stronger ties with Iran.
The Iraqi government has set a July 20 deadline for the group, also known by its Farsi name, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq or MEK, to vacate Ashraf entirely.
Anglican leaders in Ireland and Britain wrote a letter to the secretary-general urging the U.N. and the U.S. to press the Iraqi government to improve humanitarian conditions so the Ashraf residents can relocate.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Monday, Ban called on the Iraqi government and residents of both camps "to continue to work together in a constructive and flexible manner in order to complete the relocation process without further delay."
He stressed the importance of residents of both camps cooperating with Iraqi authorities and stressed the U.N.'s commitment to a peaceful solution.
The Anglican leaders expressed alarm about the possible use of force against the people of Camp Ashraf and drew attention to the shortage of water, food, medicine and medical treatment at Camp Hurriya. They said further relocations were halted becuse Iraq reneged on earlier agreements.
"We believe that the international community, the United Nations and the people of the United States of America are at one in desiring morally acceptable humanitarian standards for all people," the leaders said. "We believe that the residents have shown clear commitment to a peaceful resolution of the crisis and are prepared fully to relocate to Camp Liberty as soon as minimum humanitarian provisions are put in place."
The letter was signed by Archbishop of Armagh A.E.T. Harper, the Primate of All Ireland, and supported by the archbishop of Wales, 18 bishops and three ministers.
The People's Mujahedeen carried out a series of bombings and assassinations against Iran's clerical regime in the 1980s and fought alongside Saddam's forces in the Iran-Iraq war but it says it renounced violence in 2001. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is under court order to decide by October whether to remove the group from the U.S. terrorism list.
The group says the Iraqi government has used its terrorist status to justify mistreatment of the residents — an Iraqi army raid last year left 34 exiles dead — and has made it difficult to relocate the residents to other countries.
Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Belfast, Northern Ireland, contributed to this report.