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Iraq says Iran’s president to visit Baghdad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a landmark visit to Baghdad on March 2 for talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other officials, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Thursday.
Image:  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses a rally to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution at Azadi Square, Tehran, Iran, on Monday.Hasan Sarbakhshian / AP
/ Source: Reuters

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a landmark visit to Baghdad on March 2 for talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other officials, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Thursday.

Ahmadinejad's visit will be the first to Iraq by the president of the Islamic Republic, which is at loggerheads with the United States over the causes of violence in Iraq.

Washington accuses Iran of giving weapons and training to Shi'ite militias in Iraq, including armor-piercing bombs known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) that have killed hundreds of U.S. troops. Tehran denies the charges.

Dabbagh said Ahmadinejad would visit Iraq for two days at the invitation of President Jalal Talabani.

"It's significant in the sense that Iraq wants to have good relations with Iran (but) there should be no interference in Iraq's internal affairs," Dabbagh told Reuters.

Iran should respect Iraq's choice to have relations with the countries it chose to, he added.

Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war in the 1980s in which hundreds of thousands were killed, but ties have improved since Saddam Hussein was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a Shi'ite Islamist-led government came to power.

The announcement of the date for Ahmadinejad's came hours after Iraqi officials said Iran had postponed talks with the United States on improving security in Iraq. Those talks had been scheduled to take place in Baghdad on Friday.