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1,500 Iranian pilgrims held captive in Iraq

Tehran, Dec 18, IRNA -- An official from Iran's Foreign Ministry in charge of social affairs, Masoud Khaleqi said in Tehran on Saturday that it has lately been learnt that over 1,500 Iranian pilgrims are currently held in captivity in the neighboring Iraq.

Addressing a gathering of the families of the captives in front of the Foreign Ministry premises, he added that the list of the captives have been submitted to the Iraqi officials.

"Through our efforts, merely 142 of the Iranian prisoners have been released.

"Though positive negotiations have taken place between the two sides at embassy and consular level, the promises of Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials have not been materialized, added Khaleqi.

Turning to the unfavorable situation in Iraq, he said that the relevant correspondence with Iraqi Foreign Ministry cannot actually be followed up.

"Though Iranians had earlier been warned of the unfavorable situation in Iraq, their recommendations were not taken seriously and made them end up facing problems.

"We can only promise to take appropriate measures towards releasing those held in captivity through diplomatic channels," he added.

A few of the relatives of the Iranian prisoners called for follow-up of the issue via the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In response to the cries of mothers raising objection to the insanitary conditions under which their children are kept in Iraq and the lack of any facilities, he said that 300 blankets have so far been dispatched for the captives.

A number of the relatives of Iranian pilgrims kept in custody in Iraq gathered in front of the Foreign Ministry's department for social affairs this morning and called for measures towards the release of their family members by the related department and Iran's embassy in Iraq.

Numbering 50, the ralliers mostly consisted of the mothers of the Iranian captives, while holding placards questioning the Foreign Ministry officials about the fate of their children and the moral suffering they are currently undergoing.

One of the ralliers said that they have been resorting to every legal and even unofficial way to meet their children so far but to no avail.

She complained about the unfulfilled promises given by the officials of Iranian embassy in Iraq and Foreign Ministry to the effect.

... Payvand News - 12/18/04 ... --

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