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Iraq-backed Iranian opposition left hanging out to dry

Friday, April 18, 2003

NICOSIA The Iranian military opposition is fleeing Baghdad and seeks safe haven. So far, there are few takers.

Thousands of fighters from the Mujahadeen Khalq have been seeking safe haven amid the fall of the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. About 100 fighters have surrendered to Iran while others have tried to flee to neighboring Jordan, Syria and Turkey.

Arab diplomatic sources said Syria has refused to accept Mujahadeen fighters, Middle East Newsline reported. Iran and Syria have strategic relations and Damascus allowed Iranian warplanes to use Syrian air space during the 1980-88 war against Iraq.

Jordan has rejected a request by 146 Mujahadeen fighters to enter the Hashemite kingdom. The official Kuwaiti news agency said the fighters sought to be granted safe haven in Jordan on humanitarian grounds on April 9. The request came four days after heavy coalition air strikes on Mujahadeen camps.

The sources said the military presence of the Mujahadeen in Iraq has been destroyed. They said coalition forces have bombed all of the Mujahadeen camps, located along the Iranian border and near Baghdad.

U.S. officials said Washington is negotiating for the surrender of Mujahadeen. They said Mujahadeen was trained and equipped by Iraq and had been considered a military target. The Mujhadeen force was said to have amounted to more than 5,000 fighters, backed by tanks and artillery.

"We know that there's a presence of the Mujahideen Khalq inside of Iraq and indeed we have been targeting them for some time," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations chief at U.S. Central Command, said. "There's work that's ongoing right now to try to secure some sort of agreement that would be a cease-fire and capitulation. That work is ongoing and it will most likely unfold within the coming days."

Arab diplomatic sources said Mujahadeen has sent messages to several Western European countries for an end to U.S. attacks on Iranian opposition bases. The sources said Mujahadeen leaders are seeking safe haven in European states.

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