Iran and Iraq, never the best of friends, are embroiled in a dispute over the number of aircraft Baghdad flew into its neighbor's territory for safekeeping during the Persian Gulf war.
Now that the fighting is over, Iraq wants its aircraft back and says Tehran is holding 148. Iran says the number is more like 22 - maybe even fewer.Iraq flew military and civilian planes into Iran during the six-week war, saying they were seeking to protect the aircraft from allied bombs. The Pentagon at the time estimated as many as 150 Iraqi aircraft were sheltered in Iran.
The Iraqi News Agency Saturday quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Ahmed Hussein Al Khodeir as saying Iran is holding 115 Iraqi warplanes and 33 civilian craft. Al Khodeir said the warplanes include 24 French-made Mirage F1s, 75 Soviet-made Sokhois and 16 Soviet-made MiGs.
He was responding to a statement by his Iranian counterpart last Wednesday who said that the number of Iraqi planes sent to Iran during the war did not exceed 22.
"This problem is another setback to the relations between the two countries," a Cairo-based Arab diplomat said. "This matter could have a far reaching repercussions."
There is a history of bad blood between the two countries, including a bitter war from 1980 to 1988 that claimed an estimated 1 million lives.