Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Iraq Asks Iran to Stop Flow of Militants

Ali Akbar Dareini, NewsOne:
Iraq‘s prime minister made his first official visit to Iran on Tuesday, asking Tehran to prevent al-Qaida militants from slipping across the border to carry out attacks, an Iraqi official said. Iran‘s president promised to help Iraq establish security. READ MORE

But at the same time, the United States — the Iraqi government‘s other top ally — has repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in Iraqi politics and allowing insurgents to cross the porous 1,000-mile border, claims Iran denies.

He said the militants have been "taking advantage of the long border" to smuggle weapons and people into Iraq "most likely without the Iranian government‘s knowledge."

Tehran says it has no interest in fomenting instability across the border. Iran says that some al-Qaida operatives may have illegally passed through Iran from Afghanistan months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but it says it has arrested an unknown number of them.

Al-Maliki, who lived in Iran during part of a long exile from Iraq during the rule of ousted leader Saddam Hussein , received a red-carpet reception at the presidential palace before talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"All our assistance to the Iraqi people will be to establish complete security in this country," Ahmadinejad said, according to a state-run news agency report of the press conference. "Iran and Iraq enjoy historical relations. These relations go beyond from neighborly ties. Our relations will remain excellent.

Ahmadinejad also said Iran hoped the United States will leave Iraq soon.

Al-Maliki described the talks as "very constructive" and called Iran "a very important country, a good friend and brother."

Al-Maliki‘s Shiite-led government has strong ties with mainly Shiite Iran, and they are growing even closer, with Baghdad sealing deals last month for Tehran to provide it with gasoline, kerosene and cooking fuel amid a shortage in Iraq. Al-Maliki spent years in Iran and Syria in exile.

In July 2005, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the first visit to Iran by an Iraqi premier since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam.


Associated Press Writer Qassem Abdul-Zahra in Cairo contributed to this report.