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Iran Returns More Iraqi POWs

April 11, 2000

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iran on Monday returned 500 Iraqi prisoners of war held since its 1980-88 war with its Arab neighbor, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

They were the third batch of 500 POWs to be handed over by Iran to Iraq on three consecutive days. A fourth and final batch will be freed Tuesday.

``Marks of torture and suffering were clear on the faces and bodies of the returned heroes,″ said the agency.

Hundreds of families have spent the last three days at the border point of Munthriya hoping that their loved ones will be among those returning. No lists of names were released in advance for the returning POWs.

Iraq says it does not hold anymore Iranian POWs, a claim denied by Iranian authorities.

The gesture by Iran is unlikely to bring the former foes any closer. Only last week, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in a Cabinet meeting, branded Iran’s rulers ``a clique of brutal monsters″ for what he said were atrocities against Iraqi POWs.

``The means of oppression and torture they used are not even matched by those of the Nazis,″ Saddam said. Iran denies accusations of mistreatment of POWs.

The Iran-Iraq war ended with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in 1988 but the two countries never signed a peace treaty and their relations remain tense.

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