The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Wednesday that the next phase in the exchange of prisoners-of-war between Iran and Iraq will be the "most difficult".
"Prisoners who have been exchanged between the two parties -- who number around 100,000 -- were registered by the ICRC whilst the rest are not, which makes our mission very difficult," Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC delegation in Baghdad, told AFP.
The issue of POWs is a key stumbling-block to a normalization of ties between the two former foes, 12 years after the ceasefire to the 1980-88 war between them.
Iran has released around 3,390 Iraqi POWs over the last three months, and their release takes to 97,500 the number of prisoners-of-war freed by the two countries since the end of the 1980-88 war, the ICRC said.
Iraq says Iran still holds 29,000 of its soldiers prisoner, of whom 20,000 have not been officially registered. A further 60,000 are missing.
Iraq says it does not have any Iranian prisoners. The 400 still in Iraq have told the International Committee for the Red Crescent that they do not want to be repatriated.
However, Iran says there are still 3,206 prisoners-of-war held in Iraq, while Schweizer said "6,700 Iraqi POWs asked to stay in Iran" - BAGHDAD (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)