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Coalition negotiates cease-fire with armed group

U.S. considers People's Mujahedeen a terrorist organization

A People's Mujahedeen fighter stands in front of a vehicle that the group says was destroyed by coalition bombing Saturday.
A People's Mujahedeen fighter stands in front of a vehicle that the group says was destroyed by coalition bombing Saturday.

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DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of U.S. Central Command said Tuesday that coalition forces have had "encounters" with a group he identified as the People's Mujahedeen but that there is now a cease-fire.

The group -- made up of armed Iranian dissidents -- has several camps inside Iraq.

"We've had some encounters of various sorts with" the group, Brooks said at a news briefing. "And ... some of our actions involve targeting them with lethal fire."

The People's Mujahedeen is one of the groups that make up the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which opposes the Tehran government. The People's Mujahedeen wants to replace Iran's religious government with a democratically elected leadership.

NCRI President Massoud Rajavi said in a statement that he welcomes the cease-fire.

"We welcome the signing of a cease-fire with the U.S. forces ... although, we have not been firing at anyone and were in fact not a party to this war," Rajavi said. "Our presence in Iraq was conditional upon our independence."

The U.S. government views the People's Mujahedeen, which it calls the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization [MEK], as a terrorist group.

"So, until that changes, we view them that way," Brooks said, when asked if captured People's Mujahedeen fighters would be treated as POWs.

"However, there's discussion that's ongoing right now to determine exactly what the condition and what the status will be and how we'll handle them," he said. "It's premature for me to describe exactly what that will be at this point."

MEK members follow a philosophy that mixes Marxism and Islam. During the 1970s, the group staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians, according to the State Department.

The organization helped Iraq suppress Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in northern and southern Iraq in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War, according to the State Department's Web site.

It has also, the Web site says, provided internal security for the government of Iraq while carrying out bomb attacks on Iranian leaders inside Iran and on embassies outside Iraq.

Ali Safavi, a spokesman in Paris, France, for the People's Mujahedeen, said the United States' decision to call the group a terrorist organization was a "goodwill gesture" from President Clinton's administration to Tehran.

In November, about 150 Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives issued a statement saying that the MEK should be taken off the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, calling it a legitimate democratic opposition group.

-- CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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