Ahmadinejad Accepts Invitation to Visit Iraq

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted an invitation to visit Iraq, but no date has been set, the Foreign Ministry announced here Wednesday. It would be the first visit to Iraq by a top Iranian leader.

Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abawi said the invitation to the Iranian leader was extended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has close relations with Iran's ruling clergy.

Iran had no immediate word on the visit.

The two Muslim neighbors fought a ruinous eight-year war in the 1980s that left an estimated 1 million people killed or wounded. Relations have improved since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussen's Sunni-led regime.

Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite, while Iraq has a 60 percent Shiite majority that emerged from decades of marginalization to become the country's dominant force after Saddam's ouster.

Many of Iraq's senior Shiite politicians had lived in exile in Iran during the 35-year rule of Saddam's Baath party and continue to maintain ties to Iran's leadership.

The U.S. military says Iran is arming, training and bankrolling Shiite militiamen in Iraq who have used Iranian-supplied roadside bombs to kill hundreds of American soldiers. Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Arabs, along with most Arab nations, are deeply alarmed that Iraq's Shiite politicians have been used by Iran's ruling clergy to gain a foothold in a major Arab nation.

Iran says that, like the United States, it would like to see a stable and democratic Iraq.