x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UN asks Iraq to extend dissident camp date

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

NEW YORK // The United Nations appealed to the Iraqi government to push back a December 31 deadline to close an Iranian dissident camp north of Baghdad, warning of a growing risk of violence.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, also renewed appeals to the international community to find a home for the 3,400 Iranian exiles at Camp Ashraf.

Amid heightened international concerns, the UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that many "obstacles" remain to eradicating doubts over how to end the standoff. The positions of the residents and the government "remain far apart", he said.

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's inhabitants refuse to move unless they are given UN protection. At least 36 people at the camp were killed in clashes in April. Residents said they were attacked by Iraqi forces.

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