WASHINGTON - The United States expressed concern on Wednesday over Iraqi threats to force an Iranian dissident group out of a camp in Iraq, but also urged members of the group to relocate voluntarily to a large former US military base in Baghdad.
Iraqi authorities have been locked in a protracted dispute with the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) over plans to move 3,000 MEK members from Camp Ashraf, where they have lived for years, to a former US base near Baghdad's airport - a step toward their ultimate expulsion from Iraq.
The Iranian group, which calls for the overthrow of Iran's clerical leaders and was supported by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shiite-led government that came to power after Saddam's downfall in 2003. Clashes between Ashraf residents and Iraqi security forces last year killed 34 people.
"The United States is concerned by the government of Iraq's reference on July 31 to the possible closure of Camp Ashraf by involuntary relocation of its residents," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.