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Iran's President Says Iraq Visit Opens 'New Chapter' in Relations

  • VOA News

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his landmark trip to Iraq has opened a new chapter in relations between the two former enemies.

Mr. Ahmadinejad received a red-carpet welcome from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at the presidential residence after arriving in Baghdad on Sunday.

The Iranian president described the meeting as very positive and says a developed, powerful and united Iraq will benefit the region.

Mr. Ahmadinejad also met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. Mr. Maliki told his guest that Iraq will try to expel all terrorist groups operating in the country.

The Iraqi prime minister says these groups include al-Qaida, Iranian rebel group People's Mojahedin (Mojahedin-e Khalq) and Kurdish rebels who attack Turkey.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's two-day visit to Iraq is the first by an Iranian president. The two countries fought a bitter, eight-year war in the 1980s.

Many of Iraq's current Shi'ite leaders, including Mr. Maliki, lived in exile in Iran, a predominantly Shi'ite country, during the rule of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.

Iraqi Sunnis opposed to Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit held scattered protests today in Baghdad and other towns with sizeable Sunni communities.

Mr. Ahmadinejad rejected an accusation from President Bush on Saturday that Tehran sends sophisticated weapons to Iraq that kill Iraqi and US citizens.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said that making accusations without evidence increases the problems in the region. The Iranian president also said the Iraqi people, in his words, "do not like America."

A US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith says the Iranian president could play a constructive role in Iraq if he takes steps to improve Iraq's security.

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