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Iraq: Al-Maliki Seeks To Reassure Iran

In talks with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought to ease Iranian fears over the proposed U.S.-Iraq security deal.

On the second day of a two-day visit to Iran, Al-Malik was quoted as saying on June 8 that he "will not allow Iraq to become a platform for harming the security of Iran and neighbors."

After talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki late on June 7, Iran's state-controlled media quoted al-Maliki as saying his government placed great value on Iran's security. State broadcaster IRIB said on its website that al-Maliki also met Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi.

Iran opposes the negotiations going on between Baghdad and Washington, which are aimed at regulating the presence of American forces in the country after their United Nations' mandate expires at the end of 2008. Iran says it will lead to permanent U.S. bases on its doorstep in Iraq.

Iran's concerns come amid renewed international tensions over its nuclear program, which the United States fears is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge Tehran rejects.

The Iraqi and Iranian sides were also due to discuss alleged Iranian interference in Iraq, including Tehran's support for Shi’ite militias, who have fought bitter battles with U.S. and Iraqi government forces earlier this year.

The U.S. allegations were reinforced on June 8 when the military announced the arrest in Baghdad of an Iraqi arms dealer and "assassination squad" leader responsible for trafficking Shi’ite militants in and out of Iran for training.

The visit to Iran is the second this year by al-Maliki, who is also a Shi’ite political leader, while Ahmadinejad made a landmark visit to Iraq three months ago.

During the Saddam Hussein era, Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war that killed some 1 million people. But after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam's regime, Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated government brought improved ties with Tehran.

Compiled from agency reports

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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