January 15, 2020 / 4:26 PM / 7 days ago

Albania, host of Iranian dissident camp, expels two Iranian diplomats

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania, which hosts a camp for thousands of members of an exiled Iranian dissident group, expelled two Iranian diplomats on Wednesday, more than a year after kicking out the Iranian ambassador.

Acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj identified the diplomats in a statement on social media as Mohammad Ali Arz Peimanemati and Seyed Ahmad Hosseini Alast. They were expelled for activity incompatible with their diplomatic status, a phrase often used in cases of spying.

“The two representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been asked to depart immediately from the territory of the Republic of Albania,” Cakaj said.

In December 2018, Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador and another diplomat for “damaging its national security”. Iran said at the time Albania had acted under pressure from Israel and the United States.

For the past six years, NATO-member Albania, a U.S. ally, has hosted a camp for members of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, which opposes Iran’s clerical rulers.

The group relocated to Albania under an agreement reached with U.S. support, after its members had come under attack at their previous base in Iraq.

The presence of the dissidents has been a source of constant friction with Iran. Albanian media widely reported comments by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei this month referring to Albania as “a small but evil European country where American elements conspire with Iranian traitors and plan attacks against the Islamic Republic”.

Some 3,000 PMOI members now live in a camp near Durres, Albania’s main port.¬†Albania said last October it had foiled a number of planned attacks last year by Iranian agents against exiled Iranian dissidents.

Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Peter Graff

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