AP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a historic trip to Iraq sometime before March 19, state media reported Monday, the first such visit ever by an Iranian leader. The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a historic trip to Iraq sometime before March 19, state media reported Monday, the first such visit ever by an Iranian leader.
The two neighbors fought a ruinous eight-year war in the 1980s that left an estimated 1 million people killed or wounded. But relations have improved since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“God willing, the trip by Ahmadinejad to Iraq will be done by the end of Iranian year on March 19,” the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying.
The exact date of Ahmadinejad’s visit would be announced days before the trip.
Earlier this month, Iraqi officials said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has close relations with Iran’s ruling clergy, invited Ahmadinejad to visit.
Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim, and Iraq has a roughly 60 percent Shiite majority that emerged from decades of marginalization to become the country’s dominant force after Saddam’s ouster.
Many of Iraq’s senior Shiite politicians lived in exile in Iran during the 35-year rule of Saddam’s Sunni-dominated Baath party, and maintain ties to Iran’s leadership.
The U.S. military says Iran is arming, training and bankrolling Shiite militiamen in Iraq who have used Iranian-supplied roadside bombs to kill hundreds of American soldiers. Iran denies the charge.
Since May, Iran and the U.S. have held three rounds of ambassador-level talks on security in Iraq. IRNA quoted Mottaki as saying Monday that Iran was interested in scheduling a fourth round of talks soon.