BAGHDAD – Iraq and the United Nations signed a pact Sunday over a camp of Iranian dissidents, under which Baghdad will resettle them and provide security while the U.N. determines their refugee status.
The deal on Camp Ashraf -- home to around 3,400 Iranians hostile to the regime in Tehran -- comes after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said his government would extend a year-end deadline for their removal from Iraq, AFP reported.
The United Nations said in a statement that it and the government of Iraq had "signed [Sunday] a memorandum of understanding for a humanitarian and peaceful resolution of the situation of the residents" of the camp.
It said Iraq will relocate them to a "transit location for a process of refugee status determination by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a necessary first step for their resettlement outside Iraq."
Iraq had committed to "ensure the safety and security of the residents at the new location," said the statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcoming the new pact.
"The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding represents significant progress on this issue and outlines steps necessary to achieve a peaceful and viable solution for the residents of Ashraf, including their temporary relocation to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport," Clinton said in a statement released Sunday.
"We are encouraged by the Iraqi government's willingness to commit to this plan, and expect it to fulfill all its responsibilities, especially the elements of the MOU that provide for the safety and security of Ashraf's residents."
Clinton added that officials from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will visit the camp frequently over the next few months.
The agreement did not give the location which the residents would be moved to or provide a timeline, but Maliki has said Camp Ashraf will now close in April, rather than at the end of this year.
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allowed the rebel People's Mujahedeen to set up the camp during the war with Iran in the 1980s.
When Saddam was overthrown in the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, the camp came under U.S. military protection, but American forces handed over security responsibilities for the site to the Baghdad authorities in January 2009.
The camp has been back in the spotlight since a controversial April raid by Iraqi security forces left at least 34 people dead and scores injured.