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Iraqi border guards reopen frontier post with Iran

Khorramshahr, Khuzestan prov, April 3, IRNA-Iraqi Sunday border guards reopened a main crossing border with Iran, which they had shut down a week ago, the governor of this southwestern Iranian city said.

Iraqi border guards closed the Shalamcheh frontier post, situated close to the southern Iraqi city of Basra, on Monday on the eve of Arbaeen, which marks the end of mourning by Shias for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in the seventh century.

Khorramshahr Governor Mohammad Ali Shirali stated that cross-border economic activity by Iranian and Iraqi traders was resumed following the reopening.

The official cautioned Iranians against visiting Iraq, citing security concerns.

"Only those who hold visas can travel to Iraq through the Shalamcheh frontier post, but our advice is that they do not do so because of security situation in that country," he said.

Iraqi border guards had also consolidated their positions at the crossing border ahead of the mourning occasion, reportedly without coordination with Iranian officials and any explanation.

Few Iraqi officials, notably Defense Minister Hazem al-Shalan, have accused Tehran of letting insurgents slip through its border into Iraq, charges Iran has denied.

Iranian officials have repeatedly advised its citizens to avoid travel to Iraq, warning them of the hazardous security situation in the neighboring war-torn state.

"Given...the unsuitable security situation in Iraq, the faithful Iranian people are asked to seriously refrain from traveling to that country," the Iranian Interior Ministry said in its latest advisory in January.

Most Iranian go on pilgrimage to Iraq, home to the shrines of five Imams revered by the Shiites, including the mausoleums of Imam Ali (AS) in Najaf and Imam Hussein (AS) in Karbala.

The two Muslim neighbors, with Shi'a majority populations, have come a long way since the ouster of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to regulate pilgrimage into their respective cities.

Iraqi officials set up visa requirements for Iranian pilgrims in July, with Iranian officials warning against illegal trips to the war-torn country because of raging conflicts.

Last March, a series of coordinated bombings turned a Shia mourning ceremony into carnage, in which 171 people were killed in Karbala and Baghdad.

Iraq's chaotic situation has landed hundreds of Iranians in jail, with their relatives complaining of their dire situation in custody.

A member of the Iranian parliament's cultural commission has stated that Tehran had asked international bodies, including the United Nations, to try to properly supervise the situation of prisons in Iraq and resolve the problems of the inmates.

... Payvand News - 4/3/05 ... --

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