Iran Strengthens Ties With Iraq To Confront US, Israel

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that his country will confront the United States by strengthening ties with neighboring Iraq.

He and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met in Tehran on Sunday, the first such visit by an Iraqi leader since U.S. combat troops withdrew from the war-ravaged country last year after being stationed there for about nine years during which they toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.

According to Iranian media reports, Ahmadinejad said at the meeting that there would be no room in the region for the U.S. and Israel if Iran and Iraq deepened their ties.

He called Tehran-Baghdad ties exemplary and said there was no obstacle in the path of consolidating relations between the two countries at regional and international levels. A spokesperson for the Iranian government said Maliki had agreed to strengthen ties with Iran for both countries' prosperity.

The two leaders are said to have discussed economic cooperation and negotiations with Western powers regarding Iran's nuclear program to be held in Baghdad next month.

During a separate meeting earlier in the day with Maliki, Iranian First Vice- President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said the Islamic Republic and Iraq enjoyed a "unique and unbreakable" relationship. Maliki's visit to Tehran would help open a new chapter in relations between the two neighbors and a step forward in efforts to cement ties in all spheres.

"Political, cultural, and economic relations between the two countries are at a high level and we hope that obstacles in the way of promoting ties further will be removed as soon as possible," he said.

"The conspiracies against Iran and Iraq have their roots in the beliefs and causes of the two countries' people and if they are fully united, they will form a great power in the world," Rahimi said.

Maliki also met with Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and held talks on various issues including the latest developments in the region and the world.

Observers believe Iranian leaders intend to enhance their influence in Iraq after the pullout of U.S. troops by strengthening ties with Prime Minister Maliki who, like a majority of Iranians, is also a Shia Muslim.

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