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    IRAN * IRAQ * POWs

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    TEHRAN, February 29, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Nikolai Terekhov) - There are no prisoners of the Iranian-Iraqi war (1980-1988) left in both countries' prisons, Abdollah Najafi, in charge of the Iranian POWs Commission, said Sunday.

    No Iranian POWs have been left in Iraqi prisons after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime and the removal from power of his party of Arab socialist revival (Baath), said Mr Najafi.

    The two countries exchanged the last 59 POWs last May, while there are no more Iraqi war prisoners in Iran, said Mr Najafi.

    7,634 former Iraqi prisoners may get refugee status in Iran as a result of talks with Red Cross officials. These people who had served their prison terms on Iranian soil refused to return to Iraq. They will receive relevant papers and choose any of the Iranian provinces for residence, according to Mr Najafi.

    The POWs problem was a stumbling block in the two countries' relations in postwar years. It hindered the signing of a bilateral peace treaty after the war, which claimed the lives of more than one million people and did not bring victory to any of the parties.

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