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Iraq, Iran to hold July meeting on POWs

BAGHDAD, May 26 (AFP) - Iraqi and Iranian officials will exchange information on the fate of prisoners of war at a July meeting in Baghdad, the Iraqi coordinator of the two countries' joint committee said Wednesday.

Participants at the meeting should "determine the number of Iraqi prisoners of war to be released by Iran," Fahmi al-Qaissi was quoted by the Iraqi weekly Al-I'lam as saying.

He said Baghdad had asked Tehran for "information on Iraqis who might be held in Iranian prisons."

On May 18, officials from both countries held talks in the Iranian town of Khosravi, near the border, on the fate of war prisoners.

In late April, Iran charged that Iraq was still holding 2,806 prisoners, 11 years after their 1980-88 war ended.

Tehran claims that 5,000 Iranian soldiers still remain in Iraq, while 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.

According to Baghdad, 20,000 Iraqi POWs remain in Iranian jails.

Since the end of the war, more than 90,000 prisoners have been returned. In the latest exchange on April 17, Iran and Iraq handed over remains of almost 400 soldiers.

Last month, Iraq accused Iran of hindering the normalization of relations because of the POW issue, the key issue blocking reconciliation between the two neighbors.

Some 300,000 Iranians died and more than 500,000 others were wounded in the war, according to official estimates, with some 380,000 of the wounded permanently disabled.


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