05/19/2005, 00.00
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Iranian Foreign Minister ends historic visit to Iraq




Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister, has concluded a historic trip to Baghdad, vowing that his country was "committed to supporting Iraq's political and economic reconstruction and would do all it could to improve security".

Kharrazi held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, President Jalal Talabani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari

The trip was the highest-level visit by an official from any of Iraq's six neighbouring countries since Saddam Hussein was deposed two years ago.

Relations between the two governments had been interrupted by the eight-year war in the 1980s in which more than 1 million people died.

Even though certain issues remain outstanding such as signing a peace treaty, diplomatic relations were re-established last September.

The swearing in of the new, predominantly Shiite government in Iraq has improved relations—many of the new ministers spent years in exile in Iran which also has a Shiite majority.

Still, Tehran has been accused of being a sponsor of terrorists in Iraq.

In response to accusations that suicide bombers have infiltrated Iraq through Iran, Kharrazi pledged "to secure his country's borders to stop militants from entering Iraq."

"We believe securing the borders between the two countries means security to the Islamic Republic of Iran," Mr Kharrazi said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari said militants had infiltrated Iraq through Iran "but we are not saying that they are approved by the Iranian government".

He added he was certain that this visit would open new horizons for the cooperation between the two countries.

Before leaving, Mr Kharrazi visited Najaf, the Shiite holy city, about 150 km south of Baghdad, where he met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who was born in Iran but has been living in Iraq for over 50 years.

Al-Sistani remains a respected figure in Iraqi politics, someone to listen to even in government circles.

The United Iraqi Alliance, which al-Sistani backed in the last election, won more than half of all seats in parliament. 

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