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Iraq PM in talks on Syria during Iran trip

AFP | Last Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 22:32

Tehran: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived in Iran on Wednesday, state television reported, for two days of talks that will also focus on the conflict raging in Syria.

It is Maliki`s first visit to Tehran since Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who champions engagement with the West, became Iran`s president in August after defeating a pool of conservative candidates in a June election.

Maliki`s spokesman Ali Mussawi told AFP in Baghdad the premier`s talks would focus on energy cooperation and "the necessity of fighting terrorism"

Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Iraq has suffered from a surge in attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda affiliate battling Assad`s regime.

ISIL has exploited the chaos in Syria and launched attacks on both sides of Syria`s border with Iraq.

"The meeting touched on Syria and the two sides said the solution should be peaceful and a military option does not represent a solution," Mussawi said of Maliki`s talks today.

"Both sides said that there should be cooperation in order to reach a peaceful solution."

Maliki said, according to Mussawi: "The whole world should unite in confronting terrorism."

Iran`s official IRNA news agency said Maliki was to meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rouhani, parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

However, Mussawi said a Maliki-Rouhani meeting was not on the agenda.

During his trip, Maliki is also due to visit Mashhad, a Shiite pilgrimage city in the northeast revered by the majority communities in both countries.

Iran and Iraq are important trading partners. Tehran signed a contract to export gas to Baghdad in July, in a deal worth USD 3.7 billion (2.7 billion euros) a year.

However, the neighbours are also at odds over the next secretary general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with both fiercely backing their respective candidates in a vote which began in Vienna today.

Another topic likely to be raised is Iraq hosting former rebels of the People`s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran at a camp near Baghdad.

The PMOI was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran and later the country`s clerical rulers, and set up camp in Iraq during Saddam Hussein`s war with Iran in the 1980s.

The group was disarmed after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and today`s Shiite-led, Tehran-friendly government in Baghdad is eager to see it move elsewhere.

First Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 22:32

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