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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Iraqi Prime Minister Reaches Cooperation Deal With Iran

The two nations will work together on political, security and economic matters, the Shiite leader says during his visit to Tehran.

September 13, 2006|From Reuters

TEHRAN — Iran offered Tuesday to help establish security and stability in Iraq after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki held talks here on his first official visit to the Islamic Republic.

Maliki had been expected to tell fellow Shiite Muslim leaders in Iran that Tehran should not interfere in Iraqi affairs, a message likely to please Washington, which accuses Iran of backing militants fighting U.S. troops in Iraq.

But Maliki and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave few details about their talks Tuesday, except to say that the two neighboring nations -- which fought a bloody war in the 1980s -- had agreed to cooperate in political, economic and security fields.

"We will give our full assistance to the Iraqi government to establish security" in Iraq, Ahmadinejad said at a joint news conference after their meeting.

"Strengthening security in Iraq means strengthening security and stability in the region."

Maliki, speaking through a Persian interpreter, said, "This visit will be useful for cooperation between Iran and Iraq, in all political, security and economic fields."

The two sides signed an agreement covering these areas.

Maliki is to meet Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, and influential former President Hashemi Rafsanjani today. An Iraqi official said the prime minister might also meet Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

Despite officially encouraging Iraq's new ties to Washington's adversary, the United States is uneasy about Iranian influence over the Shiite leaders elected after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Maliki's visit comes after his trips to Arab states run by Sunni Muslims who view with suspicion Iraq's Shiite majority and its ties to Shiite Iran.

The rise of the Shiite majority in Iraq has brought to power many leaders who spent long years in exile in Iran. Though Maliki was mostly based in Syria, many of those close to the prime minister in the Islamic Dawa Party found refuge in Iran.

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