Iran's supreme leader urged the Iraqi president on Tuesday to seek a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, saying the American presence harms the country.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is paying a three-day visit to Iran, a country the United States accuses of meddling in Iraq but that is closely allied to Iraq's new Shiite and Kurd-dominated leadership.
Leaders from Iraq's divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities agreed in a conference in Cairo this week to call for a timetable for a US withdrawal, but gave no specific time frame and tied it the training of Iraqi forces to carry on the fight against Sunni-led insurgents. The interior minister said this week expected Iraqi forces to be capable of taking over security duties by the end of next year.
Khamenei denounced what he called US attempts to hurt warm Iranian-Iraqi ties with "lies and slander" and urged Iraqis to resist American pressure on them to reduce relations with its neighbor.
The Shiite parties that dominate Iraq's government have been close allies of mostly Shiite Iran's Islamic government since many of their leaders fled into exile there during Saddam Hussein's rule. Kurdish parties also built ties with Iran during that time.