Days after the British Parliament voted to remove a prominent Iranian opposition group from Britain's terrorist list, thousands of supporters of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran staged a massive rally outside Paris, Saturday, urging the European Union to follow suite -- and calling for the peaceful overthrow of the Iranian regime. Lisa Bryant has more from Villepinte, France.
Young and old packed a cavernous exhibition hall north of Paris, waving blue flags and cheering their support for Maryam Rajavi, leader of the political wing of the People's Mujahedeenhajedeen of Iran.
Wearing a suit and headscarf and speaking in Farsi, Rajavi hailed the vote by Britain's parliament to remove the Iranian resistance group from that country's terrorist list, saying it was the end of a period of shame. The People's Mujahedeen is also listed as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union -- although its political wing is not. The EU is expected to re-examine its list in the near future.
The rally also follows the EU's decision this week to deepen sanctions against the Iranian government over concern about its nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, but western nations fear it is building a bomb.
The People's Mujahedeen is a controversial group, but most people agree it is by far the largest Iranian resistance movement outside that country. Supporters at the Paris rally included several western politicians, including Lord Robin Corbett, a Labor politician in Britain's House of Lords. "The sole reason the PMOI (People's Mujahedeen of Iran) is on the terrorist list was because the Mullahs made it the price of opening talks with Britain and the EU over their nuclear deceit," he said.
A number of analysts however, believe the People's Mujahedeen carries little weight inside Iran and critics liken the group to a sect.
But Marie Agnes Kopp, of Strasbourg France, who attended the rally, believes the group offers an alternative to the Iranian government. " I support democracy and peace. I hope the Mujahedeen will work in that sensem," she said.
Still, a number of people attending the rally did not appear to know much about the group. They said they had been flown or bussed in to Paris, with their expenses paid for to attend the rally.