Iran challenges Baghdad\'s figure of 29,000 Iraqi POWs in Iran
Tehran is contesting Baghdad's assertion that 29,000 Iraqi prisoners of war remain in Iran, the government newspaper Iran said Thursday.
"Iraqi officials should take into account the number of freed prisoners when they make their estimates," said Mohammad Balar, a spokesman for the government's commission for prisoners of war.
Iraq, which was at war with Iran from 1980 to 1988, says 29,000 Iraqis remain in Iran as POWs, 20,000 of them unregistered. It says another 60,000 Iraqis are missing.
The two countries also disagree about the number of Iranians still in Iraq.
Balar put the figure at 3,000.
"Iraq, like Iran, ought to take the necessary steps to free those prisoners," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
However, Iraq has told the International Committee of the Red Cross that it holds no more Iranian POWs, and is left with only 400 Iranians who have refused to return home.
The dispute over POWs is a key stumbling-block to a normalization of ties between the two countries, whose war cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
The two countries regularly exchange prisoners of war. On July 18th, an Iraqi newspaper reported that Iran was preparing to release another 450 Iraqi POWs, previously listed as missing -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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