Iran will next week unilaterally free 460 Iraqi prisoners it captured during its 1980-1988 war with Iraq, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday.
The prisoners of war will be handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross on May 23 to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Khorramshahr, a key Iranian port city, from Iraqi forces in 1982, the agency reported.
The head of Iran's special commission on prisoners of war, Brig. Gen. Abdollah Najafi, was quoted as saying the ICRC promised to discuss with Iraqi officials the fate of 3,206 Iranian soldiers Tehran believes are still held in Iraqi prisons.
On Tuesday, the ICRC said that nearly 5,000 Iraqi prisoners have refused to return to Iraq and were granted asylum by Iran. Najafi on Tuesday revised that figure up to 6,743.
Since a U.N.-brokered cease-fire ended the war in 1988, Iran has freed 50,019 Iraqi prisoners while Iraq has freed 39,417 Iranians, Najafi said. At least 1 million people are believed to have been killed or wounded in the war.
The two Muslim neighbors have not signed a peace treaty, and efforts to normalize ties have met with little success. Both countries have recently been targets of rocket attacks and explosions that each blames on the other.
According to the Associated Press which published the report, Iraq says Iran still holds thousands more Iraqi prisoners and accuses Tehran of turning down its pleas to normalize relations. Iran, in turn, says Iraq keeps thousands of Iranian prisoners and provides refuge to Iranian exiles in military camps near the border – (Several Sources)
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