US warns dissident Mujahideen-e Khalq to leave Iraq camp

An MEK member displays the group's flag The US has urged MEK members to leave Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad

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The United States has warned an Iranian dissident group to leave a camp in Iraq where they have been based in exile, if it hopes to be removed from a US terrorist list.

The Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) has been campaigning to have its name removed from a list of terrorist groups.

Leaving Camp Ashraf in Iraq is one of the conditions set by the US in return for it considering delisting the MEK.

So far 2,000 MEK members have moved to a camp set up by the Iraqi government

But between 1,200 and 1,400 residents remain at Camp Ashraf and the US State Department said all of them must transfer to Camp Hurriya, which is run by Iraqi authorities in order for there to be progress in their petition to be removed from the terrorism blacklist.

The MEK, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) led a guerrilla campaign against the US-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s and also opposed Iran's clerical leaders who replaced the Shah.

It was given refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein but has fallen out of favour with Iraq's Shia-dominated leadership, which is taking steps to expel them.

Court order

The group was listed as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States in 1997. But the MEK has insisted that it has renounced violence and has lobbied fiercely in Washington to gain congressional support for its delisting.

Last month a US appeals court ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide within four months whether the group should be removed from the US terror blacklist, describing Ms Clinton's delay in acting on the MEK's petition as "egregious".

But according to reports, the MEK has halted its transfer from Camp Ashraf and has reduced contact with the Iraqi government and the United Nations, which is helping to process their refugee status.

"Cooperation in the closure of Camp Ashraf ... is a key factor in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind," State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

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