WASHINGTON â€” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to remove an Iranian opposition group, the Peopleâ€™s Mujahedeen of Iran, from a terror blacklist after 15 years, US lawmakers said Friday.
The move, sure to enrage Tehran, comes ahead of a court-set October 1 deadline by which Clinton had to decide whether to take the group, also known as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), off the list.
Clinton was sending â€œa classified communicationâ€ to the Congress on Friday â€œregarding designation of the MEK,â€ State Department official spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, but refused to detail its contents.
However, Republican lawmaker Ted Poe, a member of the House Foreign Affairs committee who has led calls in support of the MEK, said Clintonâ€™s â€œexpected decision to delistâ€ the group was â€œlong overdue.â€
â€œThe MEK long ago renounced violence, and in recent years, has been actively working with US intelligence agencies to get information on activities inside Iran,â€ Poe said in a statement. â€œI am very happy to learn the State Department has agreed to de-list the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List,â€ added Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher.
â€œThe MEK are Iranians who desire a secular, peaceful, and democratic government.â€
The MEK was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and the delisting will end a complex legal battle fought through the US courts.
In June, the US Court of Appeals in Washington said that if Clinton did not decide whether to deny or grant the groupâ€™s request to be delisted within four months, it would issue a special writ and remove the group itself.
The leftwing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but took up arms against the countryâ€™s new clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The State Department accused the mujahedeen of carrying out attacks that killed Iranians, as well as American soldiers and civilians, from the 1970s into 2001.
But MEK members and their supporters say the group long ago renounced armed violence, and aims to work to overthrow the Iranian regime through peaceful means.
Part of the conditions for delisting the group were that more than 3,200 MEK members living in Camp Ashraf in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, must move to another area called Camp Liberty.
Over the weekend, the last major group of the Iranian exiles relocated from the camp which former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had permitted them to use.
The exiles were moved as part of a December 25 deal between the United Nations and Baghdad that aims to see them eventually relocated to third countries.