TEHRAN (AFP) – Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday urged Iran to help rebuild his war-torn country during a visit to Tehran that came as his rival accused the Islamic republic of meddling in Iraqi affairs.
Maliki’s one-day stopover in Iran is part of a regional tour aimed at drumming up support for his bid to stay in power after an inconclusive March 7 general election.
He held a series of meetings in Tehran, including with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before holding talks with Iraq’s radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Qom, reports said.
In his talks with Khamenei, Maliki called Iraq’s relations with its eastern neighbour “strategic” and urged Tehran to help rebuild his country, which has been devastated by the 1980-88 war with Iran, decades of autocratic rule by Saddam Hussein and the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the dictator.
“We ask Iran and our neighbours to support our reconstruction and to boost economic and commercial cooperation which will help improve stability in our region,” Maliki said, according to a statement from his Baghdad office.
“The strategic relations between Iraq and Iran must continue and the cooperation between Arab and Islamic countries will serve the stability and prosperity of the inhabitants,” the statement quoted him as saying.
Khamenei blamed Iraq’s problems on the presence of US troops in the war-torn country.
“The Iraqi nation is vigilant and aggressors cannot dominate this country again. May God get rid of America in Iraq so that its people’s problems are solved,” Khamenei told Maliki, a statement from Khamenei’s office said.
It said Khamenei had stressed the need for a new government in Baghdad and the restoration of stability across Iraq.
“The construction and well-being of Iraq will materialise only when these two issues are taken care of,” Khamenei said, adding that despite the current relative stability “there was still insecurity in Iraq.”
“Some of this insecurity comes from what has been imposed by some powers as they gain politically from such insecurity,” Iran’s spiritual guide and commander-in-chief told Maliki.
Ahmadinejad told the Iraqi premier that Tehran “fully supports a united, strong and independent Iraq which serves its own people and works for regional progress and Islamic values.”
“We hope that by forming the new Iraqi government the long period of hardship will end, and by different Iraqi groups cooperating, the destruction ends and the people achieve prosperity,” he was quoted as saying on state television’s website.
Al-Alam TV reported on its website that Maliki later visited Qom where he held talks with Sadr on “the situation in Iraq, the alliance of Sadr’s group with Maliki’s State of Law bloc and details of forming the government in Iraq.”
Maliki was in Jordan on Sunday as part of his tour of Middle East capitals aimed at garnering support as he fights to keep his job after the March election.
His Shiite-led State of Law bloc finished a narrow second behind Iyad Allawi’s mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance, but neither came close to securing a parliamentary majority in the vote.
Allawi, who has looked to support from Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia which he visited earlier this month, on Sunday renewed accusations Iran is meddling in Iraq’s drawn-out coalition talks.
“We know that unfortunately Iran is trying to wreak havoc on the region, and trying to destabilise the region by destabilising Iraq, and destabilising Lebanon and destabilising the Palestinian issue,” he told CNN.
“And this is where unfortunately Iraq and the rest of the greater Mideast is falling victim to these terrorists who are definitely Iran-financed and supported by various governments in the region.”
Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc controls 91 of the 325 seats in the Iraqi parliament, two more than Maliki’s bloc.
Tehran’s envoy to Baghdad, Hassan Danaeifar, dismissed Allawi’s accusations.
“He makes such remarks on the threshold of trips (of Maliki) to other nations, and they are baseless,” Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
Maliki visited Iran ally Syria last Wednesday and plans to tour several Gulf States where support for his rival has been strong, a close aide told AFP on Saturday.