BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - Iraq and Iran on Sunday exchanged the remains of nearly 250 soldiers killed during their long and bloody war in the 1980s, in an emotional operation organised by the Red Cross. The remains of 41 Iranian soldiers and 200 Iraqis were swapped at the Shalamjah border post near the southern Iraqi port city of Basra, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement. Wooden coffins were brought to the border crossing from both sides before being draped with their respective flags and carried across by Iraqi and Iranian honour guards in crisp white uniforms. On the Iranian side of the border women in long black robes knelt and wept over the coffins of their loved ones. On the Iraqi side a military brass band played a procession as the long line of flag-draped coffins passed. The ICRC said in August that tens of thousands of members of the Iraqi and Iranian armed forces are still listed as missing, 20 years after the end of the war, in which an estimated one million people were killed on both sides. "The return of the bodies is important for the families of the dead and an essential element in the process of dealing with the past," said ICRC delegate Jamila Hammami, who was present during the handover. "These families have been expecting the return of their loved ones for a very long time. They never lost hope and today maybe some of them will finally find peace," she added. The remains of only 10 Iranian soldiers and 23 Iraqi soldiers were positively identified, the ICRC statement said. Forensic experts were due to examine the bodies of the Iraqi soldiers at a centre in Basra run by the Iraqi human rights ministry before the remains are handed over to their next of kin, the ICRC said.The remains of Iranian soldiers were due to be sent to Tehran's Search and Recovery Commission for identification before they are turned over to their families. The ICRC described the swap as "goodwill gesture" after Iran and Iraq signed along with the ICRC a "framework memorandum of understanding" in October to hand over the remains of the soldiers. The document aimed "at clarifying the fate of persons missing in connection with the 1980-1988 war" and at establishing a "clear framework for collecting information and sharing it between the two countries." "We welcome this important step," said Hammami. "The ICRC will continue to help Iran and Iraq to provide answers to many families on both sides still waiting for information on what happened to their missing relatives," she added. On November 1, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh announced the exchange and said that Baghdad was determined to pursue "efforts with the Iranian side to find solutions to outstanding issues, particularly those concerning humanitarian aspects."