U.S. in ceasefire pact with Iranian Mujahadeen in Iraq

Thursday, April 24, 2003

ABU DHABI The United States has reached a ceasefire accord with the Iranian opposition based in Iraq.

U.S. officials said the ceasefire with the Mujahadeen Khalq could be the first step in an arrangement to provide safe haven for the leadership of the Iranian opposition, which appears on the State Department list of terrorist groups. Iran has demanded the extradition of the Mujahadeen leadership.

Over the last week, thousands of Mujahadeen fighters fled their bases and sought refuge. Hundreds of them arrived at the Iraqi border with Jordan, but the Hashemite kingdom refused them entry, Middle East Newsline reported.

About 4,000 Mujahadeen fighters have been based in Iraq but did not participate in the defense of the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The U.S.-led coalition bombed Mujahadeen bases north of Baghdad and near the Iranian border.

"We've had some encounters of various sorts with the People's Mujahideen," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations chief at U.S. Central Command, said on Tuesday. "Some of our actions involve targeting them with lethal fire. At this point a cease-fire is in effect and some Mujahadeen have moved into assembly areas in non-combat formation."

The Mujahadeen was equipped by Saddam with a range of aging Soviet-origin tanks, such as the T-55. The Iranian opposition group also was given artillery.

Iran has also demanded that Jordan arrest and hand over the Mujahadeen leaders and fighters who have waited to enter the Hashemite kingdom. Jordan was said to have allowed a leading Iranian opposition cleric to enter the kingdom to enable him to travel to France. France plans to provide the cleric with political asylum.

Brooks said negotiations have taken place regarding the fate of the Mujahadeen. He said Mujahadeen fighters have continued to carry weapons, but were in what he termed a non-combat formation.

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