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Iran and Iraq to swap war dead

BAGHDAD, June 3 (AFP) - Iran and Iraq will exchange next Tuesday the remains of more of their soldiers killed during the 1980-1988 war, an Iraqi weekly newspaper reported Thursday.

The handover will take place at the Shalameja border post near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, said Al-Zawra, organ of the journalists' union which is run by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday.

It quoted foreign ministry sources but did not give any numbers.

A joint commission on POWs will hold a meeting at the border post the same day to "consider technical problems holding up search operations and the means to overcome them," Al-Zawra said.

The last handover took place on April 17 at Shalameja when 164 Iranian bodies were exchanged for 221 Iraqi corpses.

But the same day Iraq accused Iran of hindering the normalisation of relations because of the POW issue.

Baghdad insists it has freed all Iranian POWs, apart from 64 "criminals" who took part in a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. It says 20,000 Iraqi POWs remain in Iranian jails.

Since the end of the war, more than 90,000 prisoners have been exchanged but it remains a key bone of contention blocking reconciliation between the two neighbours, which have yet to sign a peace treaty.

Iran charged after the last handover that Iraq was still holding 2,806 prisoners from the war.


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