"Time has come" to relocate Iranian exiles living in camp in Iraq: UN chief

February 16, 2012 9:37 am 

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 16 — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday said "the time has come" to relocate several hundreds of Iranian exiles living in what was previously known as Camp Ashraf in northeastern part of Iraq.

"The secretary-general believes that the time has come to start the relocation process without further delay," said a statement released here by Ban's spokesperson.

In the statement, Ban reiterated that the government of Iraq " bears the primary responsibility for the security and the welfare of the residents of Camp Ashraf."

On Dec. 25, the UN and the Iraqi government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the voluntary relocation of several thousands of Iranian exiles who lived in Camp New Iraq, formerly known as Camp Ashraf, in the northeastern part of the country.

The MOU, said Ban in his statement, has "laid the foundation for a peaceful and durable solution, respecting both the sovereignty of Iraq and meeting Iraq's international humanitarian and human rights obligations."

"The secretary-general reiterates his call to member states to contribute to a durable solution by demonstrating their readiness to accept eligible residents of Camp Ashraf who wish to resettle in third countries," said the statement.

On Jan. 31, the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) and the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq ( UNAMI) said they had confirmed that the infrastructure and facilities at the new relocation camp met international standards.

Most of the camp residents are members of the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, also known as Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO).

The self-claimed Marxist and Islamic movement was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah of Iran. It subsequently fought to oust the Islamic regime that took power in the 1979 revolution. The group fled to Iraq in 1986 and set up Ashraf Camp northeast of Baghdad, about 80 kilometers from the Iranian border.

Currently, more than 3,000 Iranians and their families live in the camp. After the MKO fighters were disarmed following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the camp had been under the protection of the U. S. military for five years before the Iraqi government took over its security.(PNA/Xinhua)

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