Iran, Iraq sign agreements on Iranian opposition

Tehran — Iran and Iraq on Sunday signed agreements to return each others' detainees, which could lead to the forced repatriation of an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, Iranian state TV reported.

The countries' respective justice ministers signed agreements including provisions for the repatriation of each others criminals and convicts to their country of origin, which could include members of the People's Mujahedeen, an Iranian opposition group long-based in Iraq.

Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimari took the opportunity of the signing ceremony to repeat his country's stance that the group, once close to previous ruler Saddam Hussein, would be expelled from the country by the end of 2011.

The People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran won refuge at Camp Ashraf years ago during the regime of Saddam, who saw them as a convenient ally against Iran.

But since then, the exiles have become an irritant to Iraq's new Shia-led government, which is trying to bolster ties with Iran. Iran considers the group a terrorist threat and has long urged they be expelled.

The Iraqi army on 8 April raided the group's camp killing 34 of its members. Spokesmen for the group say camp residents are willing to move to the United States or countries in the European Union if those governments will give them asylum.

They also said the group would be willing to return to Iran but only if it is certain they will not be attacked or oppressed by the government in Tehran.

According to Iranian state TV, there are 302 Iranians in Iraqi prisons and 184 Iraqi nationals in Iranian prisons, mostly due to illegal crossing of the borders.

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