Iran dissidents call for protection after attack

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 18, 2011 3:43 PM
Iran dissidents call for protection after attack

By Natalie Huet

VILLEPINTE, France (Reuters) - An Iranian dissident leader called on the United Nations on Saturday to protect her group's Iraqi base after an attack by Iraqi security forces.

Camp Ashraf, about 65 km north of Baghdad, is the base of the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), which the United States, Iraq and Iran consider a terrorist group.

The camp's fate has been in question since the U.S. military turned it over to Baghdad in 2009 under a bilateral security agreement.

On April 8, Iraqi forces moved against the camp in what they said was an attempt to reclaim land and return it to farmers. The United Nations says 34 Iranian dissidents were killed, while Iraqi officials say three died.

"The armed forces must leave the camp and an impartial investigation into the April 8 massacre must begin," Maryam Rajavi told an event outside Paris that drew an estimated 15,000 people, mostly Iranian exiles from around the world.

"It is doubly important for the U.N. to assume protection for Ashraf," she added, to cheers from the crowd.

The PMOI -- headed by Rajavi's husband, believed to be in hiding -- has for decades has advocated the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran in place since 1979.

The United States has proposed a temporary relocation of Ashraf's residents within Iraq, pending eventual resettlements in third countries, but the PMOI's umbrella group -- the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) -- rejects this.

Among the crowd was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said Ashraf's residents should be evacuated to the United States and Europe, "where they can be safe."

(Writing by Lionel Laurent; Editing by Alison Williams)