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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 11:43 GMT
Iraq to discuss missing Kuwaitis
Woman protesting about her missing sons
Many Kuwaiti families are searching for their loved-ones
Iraq has agreed to hold talks with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia next month to discuss the fate of hundreds of people who disappeared during the Gulf War.

The meeting, in Jordan, will be the first time in four years that Iraq has discussed the issue.

One can only hope it will provide relief to some families about the fate of their missing relatives

Roland Huegenin-Benjamin, Red Cross
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that the decision had been taken at a meeting held by the three Arab countries, together with France, Britain, the US and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Kuwait says more than 600 people, almost all of them Kuwaitis, are still unaccounted for since the Iraqi occupation in 1990-91.

Iraq denies it is holding them.

But it boycotted talks on the issue following US and British air raids on its territory in 1998.

Hopes raised

Baghdad also says Kuwait is withholding information on the fate of hundreds of missing Iraqis.

The ICRC chairs a tripartite commission set up after the Gulf War to investigate the cases of missing people.

US soldiers arriving in Kuwait
The US led a coalition to liberate Kuwait
ICRC spokesman Roland Huegenin-Benjamin told Reuters news agency: "We look forward to new meetings and hope that at least some of the cases will be settled.

"One can only hope it will provide relief to some families about the fate of their missing relatives."

In a statement, the ICRC said that "years of constant effort" had managed to get the talks started again.

Meetings have been held in Baghdad, Riyadh, Kuwait and Geneva.

Iraq says about 1,000 of its citizens are being held illegally in Kuwait - a claim Kuwait denies.

Red Cross officials who have inspected Kuwaiti prisons have found only 40 Iraqis, all common criminals.


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