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US bends its own rules, cuts deal with
group it terms as terrorist outfit
April 30, 2003 01:18 IST
The US has signed a ceasefire agreement with the People's Mujahideen, a group nurtured by deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to fight the Iranian government and which the US had branded as a terrorist organisation.
The agreement, signed on April 15, was confirmed on Monday by a spokesman of the US Central Command at Doha, who claimed the US expects members of the group to surrender soon.
As per the deal, US forces have agreed not to damage any of the group's vehicles, equipment or property in its camps in Iraq, and not to commit any hostile act towards the Iranian opposition forces covered by the agreement, he said.
In return, the outfit, also known as Mujahideen Khalq, which would also be allowed to keep its weapons, has agreed not to fire on American forces, not to destroy private or Iraqi government property and to place its artillery and anti-aircraft guns in non-threatening positions.
A woman Sariha Bahzadi leads the armed 10,000-member group, a quarter of whose fighters comprise women, many of them of Iranian origin from different countries.
Muhammad Mohaddessin, a top People's Mujahideen official, said from Paris, "This ceasefire agreement (with US forces in Iraq) gives us the right to keep our weapons in non-combat formations and the right to defend ourselves" against attacks from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq.
None of the group's members has been taken into custody by the American forces, he added.
The Central Command statement said the ceasefire has been signed by 'a coalition forces commander and Mahdi Baraie of the National Liberation Army of Iran', the armed wing of the Mujahideen organisation.
US military officials declined to identify the 'coalition forces commander' who signed the agreement but senior military officers said the agreement is being enforced in areas north of Baghdad under the control of the US army's V Corps.
Asked why American commanders would sign a ceasefire with a terrorist organisation, Central Command spokesman Lt Cmdr Charles Owens said he had no further information and that the state department was responsible for decisions about the status of terrorist groups.
The People's Mujahideen supported the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. It has carried out dozens of bombings aimed at Iranian military and government workers in which Iranian civilians have been killed.
The group was added to the US state department's list of terrorist organisations in 1997. However, it was credited with revealing to the CIA details of the Iranian government's clandestine nuclear programmes.
An American military official said the group could provide intelligence regarding Iranian government activities both in Iraq and in Iran.
A state department official, meanwhile, said the deal with the terrorist group was not inconsistent with the broader effort against terrorism and it would help the US learn more about Iraq's ties to terrorism and the nature of its former government.