TEHRAN, Iran – Iraq's prime minister sought to ease Iranian fears over a proposed security deal with the U.S. Sunday, saying his government will not allow Iraq to become a launching pad for an attack on its neighbor.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a two-day visit to Tehran that was expected to focus on the security pact, which Washington and Baghdad hope to finish by mid-summer.
The agreement aims to establish a long-term security arrangement between Iraq and the U.S. Iran fiercely opposes the proposal, saying it will lead to permanent American bases on its doorstep, reflecting Tehran's fears U.S. forces could attack it.
After talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday evening, al-Maliki said the Baghdad government will not allow Iraq to become a launching pad for "harming" Iran, according to Iran's state broadcaster.
Al-Maliki said his government places great value on Iran's security, according to a report on the broadcaster's Web site.
According to state TV, al-Maliki also met Iran's intelligence minister, Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi, on Saturday night. The report did not elaborate.
Iran's official IRNA news agency said Saturday that al-Maliki would also discuss "security issues" during his visit — a reference to U.S. allegations that Iran is arming, funding and training Shiite militiamen. Iran has denied the charges, saying it supports Iraq's security and stability.
The visit is the second this year by al-Maliki, a Shiite, and three months ago, Ahmadinejad made a landmark visit to Iraq. Al-Maliki's Dawa party, along with other Shiite parties in his ruling coalition, have longstanding close ties with Iran.
During the Saddam Hussein era, Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war that killed about 1 million people.
But after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime, Iraq's Shiite majority came to dominate the government, bringing improved ties with Tehran.