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Iran Condemns Britain for Lifting 'Terrorist' Ban on Mujahedin Group

Iran is strongly criticizing Britain for lifting restrictions on an Iranian opposition group previously banned as a terrorist organization.

In Tehran Wednesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said Iran totally condemns the British action. The group involved, known as the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, or the Mujahedin-e Khalq, is banned as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, Iraq, Iran and others.

Following a British court ruling last month that ordered reversal of the seven-year-old ban on the Iranian group, lawmakers in London lifted the restrictions without a vote. The action will allow the Mujahedin-e Khalq group, as it is called in Iran and the United States, to operate more openly and raise funds in Britain, although its assets would be subject to seizure in other EU member nations.

Iranian officials say they hope the European Union will not follow Britain's example.

The Mujahedin-e Khalq, founded in the mid-1960s, originally was a militant Islamic socialist group engaged in armed struggle against Iran's former monarchy. The MEK, or PMOI, as it also is known, joined in the Islamic revolution that deposed Iran's shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in 1978, but later broke with the theocratic government that emerged in Tehran.

MEK fighters moved to Iraq in the early 1980s and fought against Iran from there for two decades, supported by Iraq's former Saddam Hussein regime. U.S.-led coalition forces that invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam in 2003 also disrupted the militants' safe havens near the Iranian border and disarmed many MEK fighters.

When the MEK was formally outlawed as a terrorist group by the United States and others in 2001, the Iranian militants said they had renounced violence. They make up the main bloc in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which describes itself as a parliament-in-exile dedicated to establishing a democratic, secular coalition government in Iran.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.