TEHRAN,(Reuters) – Iraq’s prime minister, who started a visit to Iran on Saturday, told Iranian state television his government would not allow Iraq to be used as a base to threaten its neighbors.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Iran’s Arabic news channel on Friday that Iraq “will not let Iraq be a launching ground to threaten any country,” Al-Alam said on its website.
U.S. forces in Iraq came under Iraqi mandate on Jan. 1, a move Maliki said restored sovereignty nearly six years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Iran is embroiled in a row over its nuclear plans with the United States, which has refused to rule out military action if diplomacy fails to end the dispute. Washington and its allies accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, which Tehran denies.
Analysts say any U.S. attack against Iran would most likely involve air strikes rather than any land invasion. Washington used its bases in regional countries to attack Iraq in 2003.
Washington and Tehran have traded accusations about who is responsible for violence in Iraq. U.S. officials say Tehran backs Iraqi militants. Tehran blames the presence of U.S. forces and says they should withdraw from Iraq and the whole region.
Baghdad has long urged both sides not to use Iraq as a proxy battleground. The level of violence in Iraq has recently subsided but lethal bomb and gun attacks are still common.
Maliki also “emphasized that Iraq will open all pending files with neighboring states and others in order to build sound relations with them,” the report said, adding that Iraq would be an “axis for positive relations with Iran”.
Iraq’s government said on Wednesday it wanted 3,500 members of the exiled Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, to leave the country.
Iran considers the group a terrorist organization and many Iranians oppose it for siding with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the 1980s war with Iran. Analysts say it is difficult to gauge what support the group has inside Iran.
Maliki repeated his government’s call for members of the group to leave in his comments to Al-Alam. He also said Iraq would not force them to leave to Iran or another country but would leave the choice to them.
Maliki said Iraq “will not let any terrorist party harm its relations with neighboring governments” and named the PMOI, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that wants a homeland in southeast Turkey and PKK offshoot, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), that often clashes with Iranian forces.
Maliki is expected to meet Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his two-day visit, an Iranian newspaper reported.