March 2, 2008
Financial Times

Ahmadinejad in Iraq for Historic Trip

by Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad on Sunday became the first regional head of state to visit Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, underlining Tehran's close relations with its former enemy and staging a symbolic show of defiance of the US. . . .

While Tehran has cemented ties with Iraqi groups, no Arab state has sent high-level representatives to Baghdad, citing security concerns as well as disapproval of the marginalisation of the Sunni minority.

Saudi Arabia only recently said it was opening an embassy in Baghdad a move the US has urged.

While the US and its Arab allies see Iranian influence in Iraq as destabilising, Iran maintains that it is the only regional state to have supported the elected Iraqi government.

Iran has also forged closer economic ties with Iraq and has been involved in the export of electricity and in construction deals. Trade between the two countries stood at around $2bn (1.3bn, 1bn) in 2006, according to Iranian officials who hope it will reach $10bn over the next five years.

According to Ali-Reza Sheikh-Attar, deputy Iranian foreign minister, some 10 economic and co-operation agreements were expected to be signed during the visit. . . .


Simon Tisdall, "Ahmadinejad on Israel," Guardian, December 20, 2005

Wisam Mohammed, "Ahmadinejad tells United States to quit region," Reuters, March 3, 2008

"Stephen Kinzer on the U.S.-Iranian Relations, the 1953 CIA Coup in Iran and the Roots of Middle East Terror,", March 3, 2008

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