Iraqi president meets Ahmadinejad

Talabani seeks Teheran's help in quelling the rising violence in Iraq.

ahmadinejad talabani  (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad talabani
(photo credit: AP)
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Monday sought to enlist Iran's help in quelling the escalating violence that threatens to tear his country apart. "The issue of establishing security in Iraq is the most important part of our talks. We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq," state-run television quoted Talabani as saying after he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Teheran. The meeting between Talabani and Ahmadinejad, which was delayed for two days amid a security clampdown in Iraq, comes as Teheran is trying to assert its role as the top regional power broker to counter Washington's influence on Baghdad. During their talks, Ahmadinejad pledged Teheran's support in helping to improve security in Iraq. "Definitely, the Iranian government and nation will stand next to its brother Iraq and will do every help it can to strengthen security in Iraq," he was quoted as saying. "We believe a stable, developed and powerful Iraq is in the interest of the Iraqi nation, Iran and the whole region," Ahmadinejad said, according to the television report. Iran had been trying to organize a summit joining Ahmadinejad, Talabani and Syrian President Bashar Assad, but Damascus has not responded to Teheran's invitation. Talabani had planned to visit Iran on Saturday but had to postpone his trip until Baghdad's airport, which was closed after an especially deadly week, reopened Monday. The Iraq-Iran meeting comes ahead of US President George W. Bush's visit to Jordan later this week to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. That visit, coupled with Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to US ally Saudi Arabia on Saturday, is seen as evidence of the Bush administration's intensified diplomatic efforts to bring stability to Iraq. But the United States has refused to negotiate with Iran and Syria to seek their support in quelling Iraqi violence, accusing both Teheran and Damascus of aiding insurgent groups there. Iran is believed to back Iraqi Shi'ite militias blamed in sectarian killings that have killed thousands this year. Iran has repeatedly denied the allegations. In recent weeks, the Bush administration has come under increasing domestic and international pressure to engage with Iran and Syria if it hopes to curtail the violence before Iraq breaks out into a full-scale civil war. The New York Times reported in Monday's editions that a draft report by a study panel led by former US Secretary of State James A. Baker III recommends more regional diplomacy, including holding talks with Teheran and Damascus. Ahmadinejad has said Iran is willing to help Washington with Iraq if the US drops its "bullying" policy toward Teheran - but will only do on its terms, not Washington's. "(Iraq's) occupiers need countries to help them get out of the quagmire," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Monday, according to Iran's state-run news agency. Syrian officials, meanwhile, have been silent for days over whether Assad would attend an Iran-based summit, apparently to avoid embarrassing Teheran with a direct rejection. Iran is Syria's only close ally and a rejection would be an unusual snub, but Damascus may be more worried about angering the United States by joining Iran's attempt to assert itself in Iraq. Instead, Syria may likely be looking to holding potential talks with Washington in the future. Monday's visit is the fourth by Talabani, who speaks fluent Farsi, since he took office. He is a member of Iraq's Kurdish minority, but he had close ties with Iranian officials before Saddam Hussein was driven out by the US-led invasion in 2003. Talabani also is scheduled to meet Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, later Monday and Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday.