Last Updated: Tue May 08, 2012 23:32 pm (KSA) 20:32 pm (GMT)

U.S. to decide Iranian dissident group’s fate after Iraq camp closes

Iranians who belong to Mujahadin-e Khalq have been moving out of the Camp Ashraf base in Iraq to a processing center at a former U.S. military base in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Iranians who belong to Mujahadin-e Khalq have been moving out of the Camp Ashraf base in Iraq to a processing center at a former U.S. military base in Baghdad. (Reuters)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to rule on whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from a U.S. terrorism blacklist about two months after its refugee camp in Iraq closes, the Obama administration said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments on a petition from the group, Mujahadin-e Khalq, or MEK, which is seeking an order forcing the State Department to either remove it from the list or require action within a specified period on its request to be delisted.

Iranians who belong to the group have been moving out of its Camp Ashraf base in Iraq to a processing center at a former U.S. military base in Baghdad, and the remaining 1,200 or so are expected to be moved in the next nine weeks or so, the administration said.

Clinton plans to decide on the group’s request to be delisted from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list “no later than 60 days after the last move,” Robert Loeb, a Justice Department lawyer representing the administration, told the appeals court that heard oral arguments on the issue.

It appeared to be the first time that the State Department had publicly given a rough timeline for making a decision on the matter.

Loeb acknowledged that a 60-day period for a decision “may not be realistic” because they could find additional evidence that needs to be weighed, but that Clinton had authorized him to tell the court of her plan.

Loeb said the administration has been carefully weighing whether the group has fully renounced its violent past and given up any weapons. He denied that the process was without an end. Clinton said in February the camp move was a “key factor” to making a decision.

“We’re not citing world peace” as a goal to determine the fate of the designation, Loeb said.

Also known as the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the group led a g guerrilla c campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s that included attacks on U.S. targets. It was added to the list in 1997, but the group has said that it has renounced violence.

Unwelcome in Iraq

Khoo cited illegal gambling and credit card and banking fraud as examples.

He said that U.S. banks reportedly lost $900 million (690 million euros) to conventional robbers last year but $12 billion (9.2 billion euros) to cyber criminals.

He also warned of the dangers to global security of cyber-attacks, saying that Interpol itself had been hit by the hacker collective Anonymous.

He said that in Israel “a reported number of over 1,000 cyber-attacks take place every minute.”

Israel has been undergoing a low-level cyber war since January, with purportedly Arab attackers targeting many sites, including those of the Tel Aviv stock exchange, the national airline El Al and the fire brigade.

Hackers also posted the credit cards details of tens of thousands of Israelis.

Israeli hackers have launched some counter attacks, although their government has asked them to show restraint.

Israel is hosting the May 8-10 Interpol European parley for the first time.

Police chief Yohanan Danino said that Israel joined the organization in 1949, a year after the foundation of the Jewish state, initially as part of the Asia region, where it is geographically located.

But in 2006 it was accepted into the agency’s Europe region, reflecting its main international policing concerns.

“Seventy percent of our police activity is connected to European countries ...countries with which we have diverse ties in many fields,” he said.

Israel has diplomatic ties with only Egypt and Jordan among its Arab neighbors.

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