‘Iran’s closest ally in Baghdad’ visits Tehran to discuss bilateral relations
TEHRAN - Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will visit neighbouring Iran on Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations between the two Shiite-majority countries as well as the Syria conflict, Iranian media reported.
The visit will be Maliki's first to Tehran since Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who champions engagement with the West, became Iran's president in August after defeating a pool of conservative candidates in June's election.
The official IRNA news agency said Maliki would hold talks with Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday, while the Fars news agency said he would also visit Mashhad, a holy city for Shiites, during his two day trip.
According to other media reports, the Iraqi delegation will also discuss ongoing work to clear ordnance from the strategic Shatt al-Arab waterway -- known in Iran as the Arvand river -- which became a front during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
The reports said discussions would centre on the conflict in Syria. Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, while Iraq has suffered from a surge in attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al-Qaeda affiliate that has exploited Syria's chaos and carried out attacks on both sides of its border with Iraq.
Iraq and Iran are at odds over the next secretary general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with both countries fiercely backing their respective candidates in a vote due in Vienna later this month.
Another issue likely to be discussed is the hosting by Iraq of Iranian dissidents, the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran, in a camp near Baghdad.
The PMOI was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran and later the country's clerical rulers, and set up camp in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's war with Iran.
It was disarmed after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and today's Shia-majority and Tehran-friendly government in Baghdad is eager to see it move elsewhere.