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Iran, Iraq Complete POW Swap

April 08, 1998| Times wire services

BAGHDAD — Iran has released nearly 5,600 Iraqi prisoners of war in the last week in the largest prisoner swap between the two enemies since 1990, the Red Cross said Tuesday. Many of the POWs were held for more than 15 years.

The series of POW exchanges took place under supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the Mundariya border checkpoint, 100 miles northeast of Baghdad.

In the final swap Monday evening, Iraq freed a pilot who was captured after his plane was shot down at the start of the 1980-88 war.

Hossein Raza Lashgari, 46, was handed over to Iranian authorities along with two other Iranian POWs. Iraq also released 316 "civil detainees" seized during unrest in southern Iraq after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Iran announced at the start of the repatriations Thursday that it would release 5,592 Iraqi POWs in exchange for 380 Iranian prisoners held by Baghdad.

The repatriation was arranged under a bilateral agreement signed by the foreign ministers of Iran and Iraq in New York in September.

The war ended with a United Nations-brokered cease-fire in August 1988, but a major exchange of POWs could not be agreed upon until 1990, when about 70,000 were repatriated.

The POW swap signals a warming of relations between the two neighbors whose eight-year war left more than 1 million people killed or wounded.

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