Muslim pilgrims from Iran will be allowed to visit Shiite shrines in Iraq

Posted: Friday, February 01, 2002

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iraq said Monday it would allow Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iran to fly to visit holy shrines in Iraq, another step toward normalizing relations between two former enemies.

Iraq's visiting Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was quoted by the state news agency as saying the air route between the two countries ''will be opened soon.''

Pilgrims now travel by land. In July 1998, Iraq agreed to allow 12,000 Iranians a month to visit its holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. For Iran's overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim population, the sacred shrines are second only to those in Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians visited Iraq every year until 1980, when war broke out between the two Muslim nations. The war ended eight years later.

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