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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 15:31 GMT
Iran warns pilgrims to avoid Iraq
Iranian pilgrims in Karbala
Iranian pilgrims (bottom) pass the funeral of a bomb victim in Karbala
Iran has urged its citizens not to make religious pilgrimages to Iraq, after many were killed in Tuesday's bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala.

State television said 29 Iranians had died in the massacres, after crossing into Iraq for a Shia Muslim holy day.

An estimated 300,000 Iranians were in Iraq for Ashura, the highlight of the Shia religious calendar.

Iraqi officials say more than 180 people died in the two attacks while hundreds more were injured.

Hospitals ready

The Iranian government said there would be a travel ban "until further notice".

"We have ordered pilgrims not to go to the border to cross to Iraq, even in organised convoys," Deputy Interior Minister Ali-Asghar Ahmadi told state radio.

A senior Iranian army commander at the border said 40 ambulances had crossed into Iraq on Wednesday to bring the dead and wounded home.

Medics were on standby at the border ready to treat the injured and six hospitals in border provinces were primed to accept the patients.

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami condemned the attacks, as well as the US presence in Iraq.

"It is clear today that not only has the occupation of Iraq not brought stability and security but, on the contrary, it has deprived the country of security and caused much damage," he said.


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