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CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar (AP) -- The United States agreed to a cease-fire with an Iraqi-based terrorist group that will be allowed to continue fighting against the Iranian government, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.
The deal signed April 15 with the Mujahedeen Khalq doesn't require its fighters to surrender to U.S.-led coalition forces -- at least for now, said a military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The cease-fire appears to be a way for the United States to increase pressure on the Tehran government, which Washington has accused of meddling in Iraq in a bid to keep it destabilized in the aftermath of the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.
But the cease-fire represents a conundrum of sorts for the United States, which has classified the Mujahedeen Khalq as a terrorist organization. The United States went to war against Iraq in part to dismantle what it said were terrorist networks supported by Saddam Hussein's regime.
Yet the U.S. military negotiated a cease-fire with the group, has allowed its fighters to keep their weapons and has allowed them to use military force against what the United States says are Iranian infiltrators entering Iraq.
"They're authorized to use their arms only against groups like the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade," the official said. The brigade is the military wing of the Iran-based anti-Saddam group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The Independent newspaper of Britain has reported that armed members of the Badr Brigade had crossed into Iraq from Iran and were holding sway in Baqubah, a town 25 miles northeast of Baghdad.
When asked how the United States could negotiate deals with groups classified as terrorists, the official said the cease-fire was a battlefield agreement that coalition commanders were entitled to negotiate.
"Like all other parties in Iraq we will use U.S. influence and power to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment," the official said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)