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The United Nations on Tuesday appealed to the Iraqi government to push back a December 31 deadline to close an Iranian dissident camp warning of a growing risk of violence.

Khaleej Times


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also renewed appeals to the international community to find a home for the estimated 3,400 Iranian exiles at Camp Ashraf.

Amid new international concerns over the camp, the UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the UN Security Council many "obstacles" remain to finding a solution to the future of the estimated 3,400 residents at Camp Ashraf.

There have already been deadly clashes with security forces and the positions of the residents and the government "still remain far apart," Kobler told the 15-member council.

There is "a real danger of confrontation and even violence" because of the uncertainty over the camp, which has been home to members of the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) since the 1980s.

Iraq has insisted it must close by the end of the year. But the camp inhabitants refuse to move unless they are given UN protection.

In one incident in April, at least 36 people at the camp were killed. Residents said they were attacked by Iraqi forces.

Kobler said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is ready to start interviewing Ashraf residents, but there is little hope of ending the dispute over the camp by December 31.

"I therefore appeal to the government of Iraq to extend this deadline in order to permit adequate time for a solution to be found," Kobler said.

The envoy said any solution must be suit the Iraqi government, which say the camp is a security threat and an infringement of Iraqi sovereignty, and the residents' demands for a safe exit.

"Lives are at stake and must be protected," Kobler said. "The government has a responsibility to ensure the safety, security and welfare of the residents. Any forced action that results in bloodshed or loss of lives would be both ill-advised and unacceptable."

UN leader Ban Ki-moon appealed for countries to volunteer homes for the Camp Ashraf residents in a report to the Security Council for the meeting.

"In order to find a durable solution for the camp residents, it is essential that potential third countries indicate their willingness to receive them for resettlement," Ban said.

Iraq's UN ambassador, Hamid al-Bayati, also called for international help to close the camp. "I would like to assure the Security Council that my government doesn't want to force anybody to go back to Iran," he said.

But Bayati said the camp residents were preventing Iraqi forces and government officials from entering. "We don't know exactly what is going on."

"We cannot allow any group inside Iraq which will attack neighboring countries, that will cause lots of problems," he told the Security Council.

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