WASHINGTON  - A US appeals court on Friday ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide within four months whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from a terror blacklist. The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), had asked the court to issue a ruling urgently, saying Iraqi forces are threatening members of the group living in Iraq. The US Court of Appeals in Washington said that if Clinton does not decide whether to deny or grant the group’s request within four months, it would issue a so-called writ of mandamus order and remove the group itself.

“We order the secretary to act on PMOI’s petition no later than four months from the issuance of this opinion,” said the court. “Failing that, the petition for a writ of mandamus setting aside the FTO (foreign terrorist organization) designation will be granted.”

Noting that inaction had left the MEK’s umbrella group People’s Mujahedeen of Iran in “administrative limbo,” the court also said it had not been given “sufficient reason” why Clinton had not made a decision over the past 600 days when the US Congress had only given her 180 days to do so.

“In light of the national security and foreign policy concerns underlying the designation, we decline, at this time, to revoke the FTO’s designation,” the court said.