Iraq says Saudi Arabia has opened a consulate in Baghdad for the first time in nearly 30 years in a sign of improving ties.

The consulate, which will issue visas to Iraqis, was opened during a two-day visit by a delegation headed by the Saudi minister of commerce and investment, Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi.

Riyadh seeks closer ties to Iraq in an effort to counter Iran's growing regional influence.

Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf said the consulate was opened Thursday inside the heavily fortified Green Zone. He says the move is expected to benefit both countries.

Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi is visiting Iran on Saturday, and plans to visit Saudi Arabia later this month.

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990.