Iraq's prime minister received a red-carpet welcome at the Iran's presidential palace on Tuesday at the start of his first official visit to the Shiite Muslim country since taking office in May, state-run television reported.

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were expected to cover regional issues and joint projects in energy and trade.

CountryWatch: Iraq | Iran

Iraq's new Shiite leaders have close ties to Iran, and al-Maliki spent years in Iran and Syria in exile.

In July 2005, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the first visit to Iran by an Iraqi premier since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

U.S. officials have accused Iran of not doing enough to stop militants from infiltrating across the shared, 1,000 mile-long porous border, but Iraqi officials have said there was no evidence to prove such charges.

Since Saddam's fall in 2003, Iraq has sought closer ties with Iran and to heal scars left by the 1980-88 war that killed more than 1 million people on both sides.

CountryWatch: Iraq | Iran