U.S. Senators voice serious concern for Camp Ashraf residents, warn Iraq

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In a hearing in the U.S. Senate on Nov 15, attended by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, senators expressed serious concern for the fate of the residents of Ashraf once the Dec 31 deadline and the withdrawal of the U.S. forces comes about.

 In a bipartisan mood, Senators Karl Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee (D-MI), John McCain (the ranking Republican from Arizona), Senator Bill Lindsey Graham (R- SC ), and Joseph Liberman (Independent-CO) all urged guarantees for the protection of Ashraf residents.

Reuters news Agency reported on Nov 15, 2011:

Graham and other lawmakers raised concerns about the fate of 3,000 Iranian refugees at Camp Ashraf in Iraq once U.S. forces withdrew. The camp is a base of the People’s Mujahideen Organization, a group that opposes the Tehran government and launched attacks into Iran before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Baghdad has been seeking to close the camp and rights groups say the residents have been harassed and denied access to basic medicine by the Baghdad government.

“Do you think the people in Camp Ashraf, do you think they’re going to get killed? What’s going to happen to them?” Graham asked.

Dempsey said U.S. diplomats were working to ensure Iraqis provided protection for the refugees. Lawmakers warned that if Baghdad violated its commitment to protect them it would lead to strained relations with Congress.

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