Iran and Iraq, which fought a 1980-1988 war that was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the past century, killing an estimated 1 million people, have drawn closer since the US-led invasion of 2003.
But US officials have expressed concern at the Islamic Republic’s growing influence in Iraq, which is strategically important to both Tehran and Washington.
“I would like to announce to all Iraqi people that we have forgotten all the pain of the past,” Iran’s First Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi told Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a ceremony to sign several agreements to boost co-operation in culture, technology, science, communication, health and tariffs.
“All of what Iranians love exists in Iraq,” Rahimi said, referring to the most revered shrines of Shia Islam in the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala, where Iranian pilgrims throng, braving the bombings which rock Iraq each day.
“We are ready to stand beside Iraq and build this country, to provide security,” Rahimi said.
Maliki said that relations between the two neighbors should be improved even more, inviting all Iranian companies and businessmen to Iraq with open arms.
“We invite all Iranian companies who want to invest to come,” said the Prime Minister. “The invitation is open for all businessmen in the private sector.”
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi stressed the need for good relations with Iran, but “on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.”
He also called for a halt to Iranian “shelling of villages and land” in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Source: Gulf Times