BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will make his first official visit to neighbouring Iran on Monday to discuss political and security issues, an Iraqi government spokesman said on Saturday.
“The prime minister is going to Iran on Monday for a two day visit,” Ali Dabbagh told Reuters.
Iraq and Shi’ite Iran fought a bloody war in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein was in power. The two countries have enjoyed improving political and economic ties since the U.S. invasion gave Iraq’s long-oppresed Shi’ite majority the upper hand.
U.S. officials and Sunni Arabs who dominate other Arab states view Iran’s role in Iraq with suspicion. Washington has accused it of aiding Shi’ite armed groups fuelling the sectarian conflict in Iraq. Tehran denies the accusations.
Dabbagh said the two countries would also discuss the “principle of no interference in internal affairs”. He said Maliki would meet Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has angered Washington with his defiant defence of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Maliki’s predecessor, a fellow Shi’ite, upset Iraq’s restive Sunni minority by conspicuously making Tehran his first port of call after becoming prime minister.
Maliki, in charge since May of a unity coalition trying to stave off sectarian civil war, made his first foreign trip to Sunni-ruled Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia. His visit will follow that of Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, who travelled on Tuesday to Teheran with the finance and trade ministers.