Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani in the latter's headquarters in the so- called Green Zone, a strictly walled-off area on the banks of the Tigris River guarded not only by Iraqi but also American soldiers.
In the absence of helicopter transport and other US security measures, Ahmadinejad's welcome saw the Iranian leader taken by car along the usually dangerous road from the airport for the red carpet welcome by Talabani at the Green Zone.
"We have concluded important agreements in several areas, mainly the political and economic ones," Talabani said at a joint press conference following the talks.
The Iraqi president declined, however, to disclose details about the agreements, the Voices of Iraq news agency reported.
Ahmadinejad's visit to Iraq is the first of its kind by an Iranian head of state to the country it fought in an eight-year-long war, which was launched by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Ahmadinejad stressed that his visit was aimed at forgetting this bitter chapter of history. "I am happy to visit Iraq, freed of the dictator, Saddam. Iraqis suffered immensely in the old era. I am here to strengthen friendly ties between both countries," Ahmadinejad said at the press conference.
A border dispute, which was among Saddam's declared causes for launching the war against Iran, remains unsettled. Despite his warm ties with Iranian leaders, Talabani raised alarm in January when he said a border treaty signed in Algiers in 1975 was no longer valid.
The treaty had been signed by then vice-president Saddam Hussein and the ousted Shah of Iran.
Both countries signed on February 23 a deal to revitalize the implementation of the Algiers treaty. Under it, Iraq ceded some oil- rich border areas along the Shatt-al-Arab waterway in exchange for an Iranian pledge to stop its support for Iraq's Kurdish militant groups, of which Talabani was an active member.
The border treaty was not discussed in Sunday's talks, Talabani said.
Earlier US President George W Bush, in remarks at his Texas ranch, had said he understood the importance of Sunday's meeting, one neighbour to another.
But he also said Talabani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki should tell Ahmadinejad to "quit sending in sophisticated equipment that's killing" Iraqi citizens and back off "because we want enough breathing space for our democracy to develop."
The UN Security Council was set to vote Monday on a new round of sanctions against Iran for continuing to flaunt international demands that it stop enrichment.
In an interview published Saturday, Ahmadinejad said his country is not intervening in Iraqi affairs and that his visit to Baghdad was about strengthening economic ties.
Iranian observers expect that the Iraqis will attempt to convince Ahmadinejad to open a constructive dialogue with the US. According to them, Iran wants this dialogue too, but is expecting in return the end of US sanctions, particularly those targeting Iran's nuclear programme.
Last Mod: 03 Mart 2008, 12:19