Ahmadinejad to pay landmark visit to Iraq in March

It would be the first-ever trip to Iraq by an Iranian leader.

ahmedinejad waves 88.298 (photo credit: )
ahmedinejad waves 88.298
(photo credit: )
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a historic trip to Iraq sometime before March 19, official media reported Monday. It would be the first-ever trip to Iraq by an Iranian leader. The two neighbors fought a ruinous eight-year war in the 1980s that left an estimated 1 million people killed or wounded. But relations have improved since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime. "God willing, the trip by Ahmadinejad to Iraq will be done by the end of Iranian year on March 19," the official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying. The exact date of Ahmadinejad's visit would be announced days before the trip. Earlier this month, Iraqi officials said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has close relations with Iran's ruling clergy, invited Ahmadinejad to visit. Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite, and Iraq has a roughly 60 percent Shiite majority that emerged from decades of marginalization to become the country's dominant force after Saddam's ouster. Many of Iraq's senior Shiite politicians lived in exile in Iran during the 35-year rule of Saddam's Baath party, and maintain ties to Iran's leadership. The US military says Iran is arming, training and bankrolling Shiite militiamen in Iraq who have used Iranian-supplied roadside bombs to kill hundreds of American soldiers. Iran denies the charge. Since May, Iran and the US have held three rounds of ambassador-level talks on security in Iraq. IRNA quoted Mottaki as saying Monday that Iran was interested in scheduling a fourth round of talks soon.