EU joins bid to help end Iraqi Camp Ashraf standoff

AFP , Monday 26 Sep 2011

European Union appoints advisor to overlook the situation of outlawed Iranians who face expulsion from Camp Ashraf in Iraq, that was subject to a raid by Iraqi security forces in April, leaving 34 dead

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has appointed an advisor to mull over the fate of thousands of outlawed Iranians facing expulsion from a camp in Iraq, their home for 30 years.

A spokesman for Ashton said Monday that Jean De Ruyt, Belgium's former ambassador to the EU, will act in Brussels "as an advisor on the European Union's response" to Camp Ashraf, located near the border with Iran and home to some 3,400 Iranian dissidents.

The camp, which has become a mounting international problem, has been in the spotlight since an April raid by Iraqi security left 34 dead and scores injured, triggering sharp condemnation. Iraq wants its closure by year's end.

It was set up when Iraq and Iran were at war in the 1980s by the then Iranian People's Mujahedeen and later came under US control until January 2009, when US forces transferred security for the camp to Iraq.

Maryam Rajavi, head of the dissidents, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, on Monday called for the new nominee to visit Ashraf and to demand Iraq drop its bid to close the camp by the end of 2011.

And in a statement, the head of a European parliament group on Iraq, MEP Struan Stevenson, said "Ambassador De Ruyt should visit Ashraf as soon as possible."

Stevenson said the camp's residents were being assessed individually by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after applying for refugee status, which would allow them to resettle elsewhere.

"This major operation cannot be completed within the timescale set by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki," he added, referring to the December 31 deadline for closure.

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