Iran 'has Freed all Iraqi POWs'
Iran said on Sunday it has freed all Iraqi prisoners of war, closing a file, which had hampered efforts to normalize ties between the two neighbors since their conflict ended 12 years ago, reported The Associated Press.
General Abdollah Najafi, head of Iran's POW committee, said his country had freed all Iraqi prisoners. "There is not even a single Iraqi prisoner in Iran," he told reporters.
"We demonstrated our goodwill through the unilateral release of all Iraqi prisoners. Now it is Iraq's turn to do the same," he said, claiming that Iraq still held 3,000 Iranians.
Iraq has recently repeated its claim that Iran still holds thousands of its soldiers, said the agency.
The general accused Iraq of erecting obstacles to a final resolution of the POW issue, seeking help from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to put the matter to rest.
"Iran is happy with ICRC's performance. We will be happier when all our prisoners return home," he said.
Najafi said Iran had unilaterally freed more than 12,000 Iraqi prisoners since mid 1990s, saying another 9,000 had sought asylum.
He said more than 7,000 Iraqis had registered their refugee status with the ICRC, and urged the rest to do the same.
The POW issue and the two countries' support for guerrillas from the other side have been the main hurdles to a rapprochement.
In a reminder that relations are still far from normal, Iran's state television said rebels had fired six mortar rounds at an Iranian border region from bases in Iraq on Sunday, according to the agency.
Tensions have surfaced in recent months amid a spate of attacks inside Iran claimed by the Mujahideen Khalq, Iran's main rebel group operating out of bases in Iraq, the AP added.
Iran blamed the Mujahideen for the latest mortar assault. But it said the shells had hit a dirt mound and caused no casualties or damage.
Baghdad usually blames Tehran for any violent attacks inside Iraq, the agency said - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)