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Iranian exiles say Iraq poised to attack Camp Ashraf

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(BRUSSELS) - Iraqi forces are preparing to attack the Ashraf Camp in Iraq housing thousands of outlawed Iranian dissidents, the leader of an Iranian opposition group, Maryam Rajavi, told AFP on Wednesday.

The attack is "imminent", said Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran. She warned of a potential "bloodbath" and added she was acting on information received "from within" Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

She said that according to the information, Iraqi forces had finished training for an assault on the camp, home for the past 30 years to 3,400 Iranian dissidents, now facing expulsion by year's end.

She called on the United Nations to send observers to the camp.

The camp, which has become a mounting international problem, has been in the spotlight since an April raid by Iraqi security left 34 dead and scores injured, triggering sharp condemnation. Iraq wants its closure by December 31.

It was set up when Iraq and Iran were at war in the 1980s by the then Iranian People's Mujahedeen and later came under US control until January 2009, when US forces transferred security for the camp to Iraq.

The camp's residents are being assessed individually by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after applying for refugee status, to allow them to resettle elsewhere, but fears are that the process cannot be completed within the time-frame set by Baghdad.

At a gathering of hundreds of exiles in Brussels on Tuesday, Rajavi urged quick international action "to cancel the suppressive deadline set by the Iraqi government."

"The US remains morally responsible for the people of Ashraf," said former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean at the Tuesday protest.

"We have 74 days left until the deadline," he added. "We have 74 days left until all the American troops are withdrawn and there is no protection left."

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