Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday at the start of a two-day visit to boost relations between their Muslim states.
“If Tehran and Baghdad are strong, the region will have no place for the United States and the Zionist regime,” Ahmadinejad said, quoted by state news agency IRNA, in reference to Tehran’s arch-foe Israel.
He said there was “no limit to the strengthening of political, economic and cultural ties” between them.
Such moves would serve to “boost stability and security in the region,” chimed in Maliki, who also held talks with parliament speaker Ali Larijani.
The visit notably comes ahead of a May 23 meeting to be hosted in Baghdad between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.
The mission underlines the current good ties between the two Shiite-dominated administrations — a far cry from the war in the 1980s when Baghdad was run by Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-led government.
Maliki, who was at the head of a delegation of ranking Iraqi political and economic officials, was also to see Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and to attend a meeting of the Iran-Iraq joint economic commission.
It was Maliki’s first visit to Tehran since October 2010, when he was trying to secure regional backing for a second term as premier following inconclusive March parliamentary polls.
Iraq and Iran have similar positions on the crisis in Syria, where the regime of Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad has been carrying out a bloody crackdown on an uprising against his rule, in which thousands have died.
But there are some contentious issues between the two countries, including the diversion by Iran of rivers that flow into Iraq, as well as borders and oil.