Tuesday, 12 June 2012, 07:55 GMT
UN in Iraq fears violence if delay in moving Iran exiles

An Iraqi security officer checks the content of a hut at the former Camp Liberty U.S. military base,/AFP


"Any violence would be unacceptable,"

The United Nations envoy to Iraq said on Monday he is "concerned" that violence may break out if the relocation of Iranian exiles to a new camp near Baghdad does not proceed as planned.

Under a December 25 deal between the UN and Iraq, around 3,400 members of the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which opposes the Iranian government, are to move from their long-time base of Camp Ashraf to a new location called Camp Liberty.

The aim of the deal is to eventually see the exiles resettled outside Iraq.

"I urge the remaining residents of Camp Ashraf to relocate to Camp Hurriya (Liberty) without delay," UN envoy Martin Kobler said in a statement.

"The relocation process should not be stalled. I am concerned that there will be violence if the relocation doesn?t recommence."

Kobler did not specify what was causing the delay, or which party he was concerned might instigate violence.

The PMOI has been reluctant to leave Camp Ashraf, while Iraqi forces carried out raids on the camp in July 2009 and April 2011 that were said to have left 11 and 36 people dead respectively.

"Any violence would be unacceptable," Kobler said, calling on "the government of Iraq to avoid any forceful relocation."

The first group of the exiles moved to Camp Liberty on February 18, and the UN statement said that two-thirds of the Iranians have been moved.

Kobler also called on countries "to include (the exiles) who are eligible for refugee status in their resettlement quotas" so they can be resettled outside Iraq.

The leftwing PMOI was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but took up arms against the country's new clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Now-executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allowed the PMOI to establish Camp Ashraf after he launched the 1980-88 war with Iran in which the group reportedly fought alongside his forces, and also provided financial backing to the group.