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Last Updated:  Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Human remains 'are Iranian soldiers'
Skulls and bones were discovered in makeshift coffins
The identity of the remains is the subject of huge debate

Human remains found in an abandoned Iraqi military base are those of Iranian soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war, an Iranian general has said.

Brigadier-General Mirfeisal Baqerzadeh said the bodies were discovered at the base near al-Zubayr in southern Iraq recently after a joint search operation between the two countries.

But, he said, the current conflict had meant arrangements to return the bodies to Iran had been put on hold.

Forensic scientists from the UK are due to examine the skulls and bones, which were discovered wrapped in fragments of military clothing in makeshift coffins, in an attempt to establish their identities

Evidence found at the scene suggests many of the deaths occurred on the premises.

Rows of coffins and documents
Scientists will sift through reams of documents to identify the bodies
Human rights groups suggest they may even be victims of the 1991 Gulf War.

Hania Mufti, of Human Rights Watch, told BBC News Online that thousands of executions of people accused of plotting against the Iraqi government had taken place since the conflict.

The Iraqi regime has refuted all claims that the skeletal remains are those of executed opponents of Saddam Hussein.

It says the remains are those of Iraqi soldiers killed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict and had been returned recently from Tehran.

The area has now been sealed off and is being treated as a mass war grave by UK troops.

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