For eight years, Iran and Iraq sent their youths to slaughter, squandered their wealth and mortgaged their futures in a war that gained nothing for either side.

Children as young as 13, eagerly seeking a martyr's death, perished as sacrificial mine sweepers. Children, parents and grandparents were blown to bits or crippled by bombs, shells and missiles in the cities of both sides. Soldiers and civilians were maimed by poison warfare.

In all, more than 1 million people were killed or wounded. The war cost hundreds of billions of dollars and caused measureless agony and grief.

Javier Perez de Cuellar, the U.N. secretary-general, announced Monday in New York that the two enemies had agreed to end the war with a cease-fire Aug. 20 and to begin peace negotiations Aug. 25 in Geneva.

On the killing fields near the southern port of Basra, Iraqi soldiers dug trenches and unreeled barbed wire for set-piece battles reminiscent of World War I. Men and boys died by the thousands in the mud and shallow water of the marshes.

Iraq's official news media periodically reported a "harvest of the rotten heads." Foreign correspondents taken on guided tours were shown heaps of Iranian bodies on the battlefield.

Iran spoke of victories by its "martyrdom-seeking" soldiers and Revolutionary Guards. The ranks were swollen by children wearing "Martyr" T-shirts, pressed into the service of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fundamentalist Islamic government.

Sometimes it seemed the young men of Iraq commuted to battle, so close was the front to many cities. They returned in coffins atop automobiles moving in long processions.

Iranians buried their dead in the Martyrs' Cemetery outside Tehran, a huge graveyard whose centerpiece is a "fountain of blood" spewing water dyed red.

By Western estimates, the set-piece battles east of Basra in January 1987 killed 25,000 Iranians and 10,000 Iraqis.

All the casualty figures are estimates. Neither country provided comprehensive numbers during the war, which began in September 1980 with border skirmishes followed by an Iraqi invasion across the Shatt al-Arab, the waterway that forms the southern border.

Anthony Cordesman says in his book, "The Iran-Iraq War and Western Security," that at least 300,000 Iranians were killed and 600,000 wounded through 1987, with corresponding figures for Iraq of 120,000 and 300,000.

He says the estimates are conservative, that by some accounts the dead total 1 million and the wounded 1.7 million.

By comparison, 2.9 million people were killed in the Korean War and 2.4 million in Vietnam.

Hundreds of billions of dollars were devoured by arms purchases, lost revenues, damaged or destroyed buildings and industrial plants.

War damage extended beyond Iran and Iraq. Lloyd's, the London insurance exchange, reported 90 ships sunk or destroyed in the Persian Gulf and 546 attacked, with at least 300 sailors killed and 300 injured.

Ninety-three ships were trapped in Iraqi waterways throughout the war, many of them written off. Lloyd's said its underwriters paid more than $1 billion in ship claims and other insurers a like amount.

Iraq started the war with foreign exchange reserves of $35 billion and now owes an estimated $60 billion. Iran has not borrowed, but its foreign exchange reserves have declined to a few billion dollars.

Evidence of the human cost is everywhere.

"Every family has been touched by the war," an accountant named Abdullah told an Associated Press correspondent in Baghdad earlier this month.

"They've all had a son or a brother killed or maimed or taken prisoner," he said. "Every family has one or more men in the army." Two of Ab-dullah's sons were in the army and a third was at home, minus a hand and a leg.

Battle casualties include many children under 15. French photographer Francois Lochon visited the front in 1984 and reported seeing the bodies of many dead children "who were no older than 12 or 14."

Many other warriors shown on Iranian television appeared elderly, with white hair and grins that showed few teeth. In Iraq, President Saddam Hussein encouraged older citizens to join the Popular Army militia.

Thousands of civilians were killed by bombs and surface-to-surface missiles that struck hospitals, schools and residential areas in Tehran, Baghdad and other cities.

Iraqi battlefield casualties have been only about one-quarter of Iran's, but Iraq has only 16 million people compared to 45 million in Iran and was conscious from the beginning of the need to avoid heavy losses.

It resorted to chemical weapons, which are banned by the 1925 Geneva Convention. U.N. reports say one of those weapons was mustard gas, the scourge of the World War I trenches.

Iran claimed 5,000 Kurds were killed and 5,000 wounded in a chemical attack on the border town of Halabja in March. Foreign reporters taken there saw many bodies unmarked by wounds.