U.N., Iraq reach deal on Iranian refugees

Dec. 26, 2011 at 8:56 AM
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BAGHDAD, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Iraq and the United Nations have signed an agreement to relocate thousands of Iranian exiles living in a camp in northeastern Iraq, officials said.

Under terms of the memorandum of understanding signed Sunday, the Iraqi government will relocate the approximately 3,000 residents of Camp New Iraq, once called Camp Ashraf, to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport, where the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will start the refugee status determination process, the United Nations said Monday in a release.

The agreement said the United Nations will provide 24-hour monitoring until the process is completed and includes a commitment by the Iraqi government to ensure the refugees' safety at the temporary camp, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said in a statement.

"The memorandum of understanding respects the sovereignty of Iraq and its international humanitarian and human rights obligations, and protects the security and rights of the camp's residents," said Martin Kobler, special representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and head of the aid mission.

The Ashraf camp in Diyala province houses members of the group, People's Mojahedeen of Iran. The Iraqi government had indicated it would close the camp by Saturday and transfer residents elsewhere until countries willing to accept the Iranians for resettlement were found.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement the agreement was an "important step toward a humane resolution to the ongoing situation at Ashraf."

"We are encouraged by the Iraqi government's willingness to commit to this plan, and expect it to fulfill all its responsibilities" Clinton said, adding the United States was pleased that a decision to close Ashraf was delayed to allow the transfer to proceed.

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