More than 4,600 former Iraqi prisoners of war living in Iran refuse to be repatriated, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday.
"ICRC delegates have interviewed more than 4,600 Iraqi POWs living in Iran who stated that they did not wish to be repatriated", the international organization said in a statement received in Baghdad.
Between April 8 and 11, a total of 1,999 Iraqi POWs held in Iran were repatriated under a border operation run by 13 ICRC staff.
Over the previous two months ICRC delegates had registered and held private interviews with each of the prisoners to ensure that they were going home of their own free will, the statement said.
The release was the fifth in a process launched in April 1998 with the aim of repatriating all remaining POWs from the Iran-Iraq war who wish to return to their respective countries.
Since then 8,511 POWs have returned to Iraq, and three Iranian POWs and 369 civilian detainees have gone back to Iran.
The ICRC has supervised the repatriation of more than 97,000 POWs held by both sides since the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq conflict in 1980.
The POW issue remains the chief obstacle to a normalisation of ties between Iraq and Iran, whose bitter war cost hundreds of thousands of lives on each side -- BAGHDAD (AFP) – Photo AFP Archive.
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