WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (KUNA) -- The United States on Friday said it had begun monitoring and refugee processing of 3,200 Iranian dissidents residing in Iraq's Camp Ashraf after a rocket attack struck the camp.
A plan announced by Ambassador Daniel Fried, Special Advisor for Camp Ashraf, would also move the residents to a former American military base in Baghdad, Camp Liberty, where they would ultimately relocate outside Iraq.
The camp is populated by members of the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen (MEK), a group that has fought in years past to bring down the Iranian government. The Iraqi government wants to close the camp. On Wednesday night, three rockets struck the camp, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, Iraqi security officials said.
Fried said the United Nations will conduct 24/7 monitoring at Camp Liberty and US embassy staff will make frequent visits for observation. The Government of Iraq has agreed to ensure the safety and security of Camp Liberty and those there and not to forcibly repatriate any resident back to Iran.
However, he noted that these changes will take time.
"This is Iraq we're talking about, however. We must be realistic about the difficulties. We're also acutely aware of the mistrust and even animosity between the MEK and many Iraqis, given the MEK's history in Iraq. We're concerned by the recent series of rocket attacks on Ashraf and we condemn them. While these have not caused injuries or damaged property, they heighten and underscore the risks in this situation. US facilities in the area have also been under attack recently," he told reporters at a press briefing.
Fried underscored the US interest is in seeking a secure, humane resolution of the impasse at Camp Ashraf, adding "our interest is humanitarian and independent of our views of the MEK's past record." (end) hy.bs KUNA 302247 Dec 11NNNN