* Maliki extends deadline by six months
* U.N. trying to solve resettlement of camp
* More than 30 residents killed in clashes in April
BAGHDAD, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Iraq on Wednesday extended
a year-end deadline to close an Iranian dissident camp by six
months, responding to a request by the U.N., which is mediating
the resettlement of its more than 3,000 residents, to delay the
The 25-year-old Camp Ashraf, home to the People's Mujahideen
Organisation of Iran, or PMOI, an Iranian opposition group that
the United States and Iran officially consider a terrorist
group, is some 65 km (40 miles) from Baghdad.
Iraq's Premier Nuri al-Maliki said he had agreed to extend
the deadline on condition the U.N. transfer about 400-800
residents to other countries before the end of this year.
"He (U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon) asked us to give
them a chance and we gave them a chance. The case is now in the
hands of the U.N. We hope they will close this file, we don't
want to hand them to Iran," Maliki said at a press conference.
"We don't want to kill them, we don't want to abuse them and
we don't want to make them starve. But their presence is
illegal, so under any title, this has to end."
Camp Ashraf's future became uncertain after Washington
turned it over to the Iraqi government in 2009. Baghdad has
repeatedly said it does not want the guerrilla group on Iraqi
The United Nations, along with the European Union, has been
trying to resolve the issue, one of the main outstanding
problems left after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on
Sunday, almost nine years after the 2003 invasion.
Rights group Amnesty International says the residents are
subject to harassment by the Iraqi government and are denied
access to basic medicine. More than 30 residents were killed in
a clash with Iraqi security forces in April.
A leader of the PMOI said on Tuesday it would agree to a
U.N. plan to move residents of the camp to a new location on
condition that the U.N., U.S. and EU support and endorse the
proposal and that the Iraqi government guarantee the residents'
security and well-being.
In the 1970s the group, which is also known as the
Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK), led a guerrilla campaign against the
U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, including attacks on U.S. targets.
(Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Matthew Jones)