Iran, Iraq Agree to Re-Open Files On Pows
Iran and Iraq have agreed to re-open the files on the controversial and unresolved question of POWs from their 1980-1988 war, Iranian state radio said Sunday, reported (AFP)
The agreement was struck during the Baghdad visit of Kamal Kharazi, who is making the first trip to neighboring Iraq by an Iranian foreign minister in a decade, it said.
"Kharazi's request for a re-opening of the POW files, as well as the speedy return of prisoners to Iran, was one of the main issues discussed during the trip," it said.
Tehran has repeatedly denied Baghdad's charges that it still holds 29,000 Iraqi prisoners more than a decade after the end of their brutal 1980-1988 war. Iraq says another 60,000 are missing.
Iran in August released 728 Iraqi POWs that it said were the last still held here, although Tehran acknowledges that some 9,000 others have stayed behind to seek asylum.
Iran claims that Iraq still holds some 3,000 Iranian soldiers, while Baghdad says it holds none but a handful who were involved in a regional uprising against President Saddam Hussein.
The disagreement ended the workings of a bilateral POW committee, but the state IRNA news agency said the two sides had now agreed to relaunch all frozen joint committees on prisoners as well as security, trade and other issues.
The two sides also agreed to continue allowing pilgrims to visit holy shrines in each other's territory but the radio said the number of people who will be allowed into Iraq had not yet been determined.
The presence of armed opposition groups on each other's territory is also an obstacle to improving relations.
Kharazi met Saturday with Saddam, Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf as both sides reportedly stressed their will to resolve all outstanding issues.
Iran and Iraq never broke off diplomatic relations, even during the war, and promoted ties to the level of charge d'affaires in 1990.
Kharazi was due to return to Tehran on Sunday – (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)