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Iraq halts visit of Iranian pilgrims to holy sites: press

Tehran, Feb 18, IRNA -- Iraq has stopped letting Iranian pilgrims visit the holy sites in that country on the grounds of security concerns, press Tuesday cited an MP as saying.

"Iraq, due to its security problems and its inability to ensure the safety of the pilgrims, has called the visit of Iranians to that country be halted," the Persian daily Tosse'e quoted A'zam Nasseripour, the MP from Islamabad-e Gharb, as saying.

She said the halt may remain in force until the fate of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is determined.

The two countries signed an agreement in 1998, which allowed 3,000 Iranians to visit Iraq per week. The figure was raised up later.

The dispatch marked a relative warming in ties between the two neighbors which fought a destructive war between 1980 and 1988, imposed by Iraq on the Islamic Republic. A row, however, has broken out in recent months amid reports that Iraq had arrested several Iranian pilgrims on unspecified grounds.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri last Sunday paid a 24-hour visit to the Islamic Republic and held talks with Iranian officials, who made clear that Iraq's full compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions was the only remaining alternative to resolve the standoff between Baghdad and Washington.

Sabri also submitted Saddam Hussein's message for Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. The contents of the message were not disclosed.

Iran opposes any military attack on Iraq, but has urged Baghdad to comply with UN resolutions.

... Payvand News - 2/18/03 ... --

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