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The US-led invasion ten years ago that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime set in motion a rapid turnaround in relations between Iran and Iraq, which fought a ruinous eight-year war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Saddam’s ouster put Iraq’s majority Shiites in control, and many Shiites who had fled persecution by Saddam and took refuge in Iran returned home. Millions of Iranians now visit Shiite holy sites in Iraq annually, and top Iraqi leaders including Al-Maliki have paid visits to Iran.
Zionists Thrive on Regional Conflicts
Later in the day, meeting with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi and the country’s lawmakers, Ahmadinejad said the Zionist regime of Israel is always in pursuit of turmoil and violence in the region and so regional countries should foster unity to thwart its divisive plots. “Zionists want Turkey, Libya, Egypt and other countries to always be in a volatile situation; so given such behavior, we should extend the hand of brotherhood to one another more than ever,” Ahmadinejad said.
He added that certain enemies, including Israel, take pleasure in seeing some of the countries in the region gripped in turmoil ‘because they do not want [regional] countries powerful and making progress’.
Pointing to the recent events in Egypt, the Iranian chief executive said the continuation of violence in the Arab country will ‘harm a strong pillar in the region’, which, he added, will lead to a rise in the number of casualties on all sides, and that will gratify the enemy.
Touching on bilateral ties, Ahmadinejad hailed Iran-Iraq cooperation as constructive and growing, and said there is no division between the two countries today.
He also highlighted the Iraqi parliament’s instrumental role in strengthening international relations as well as national unity, adding that Iraq is treading the path to power and security.
Iran and Iraq can play a significant role in creating an understanding among regional countries, he pointed out, saying that Iran will do everything in its power to promote solidarity and unity in the region.
Visit to Holy Shrines
On Friday, Ahmadinejad visited two of the holiest cities for Shiite Muslims amid tight security.
The president waved to worshippers and smiled as he entered the Imam Ali (AS) shrine in Najaf, a city 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad.
Security forces were deployed along the route from Najaf airport to the gold-domed shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam.
Ahmadinejad’s convoy then plans to head to the city of Karbala, home to the shrine of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Envoy Urges Regional Help On Karabakh
Iranian ambassador in Baku called on regional countries to join efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“We believe that peace and security will not take hold in the region without the settlement of the dispute,” Mohsen Pakaien said on Thursday, Fars News Agency reported.
“Peace-loving countries, particularly those in the region, should try to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the issue. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also announced its readiness in that regard,” he added.
Pakaien said Iran’s policy is to support any negotiations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia to help find effective solutions to the dispute, adding that Tehran backs the idea of a meeting between Armenian and Azeri presidents to reach ‘tangible results’.
Both Azerbaijan and Armenia claim the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is largely populated by Armenians but located in and accounts for 16 percent of Azerbaijan.
Ethnic Armenian forces took control over the enclave in early 1990s during a six-year war with Azerbaijan (February 1988 to May 1994).
The conflict left an estimated 30,000 people dead and one million others displaced before the two sides agreed to a cease-fire. However, a peace accord has never been signed and the dispute still remains unsettled.
The Iranian envoy added that Azerbaijan was well aware of Iran’s goodwill to help settle the conflict. He also hailed the positive approach by Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s to embrace proposals by other countries to resolve the issue.
Iranian, Algerian FMs Discuss Relations
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci in a telephone conversation discussed bilateral ties.
During the telephone conversation, Salehi was also briefed about the health conditions of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Fars News Agency reported on Friday.
The Iranian foreign minister wished the immediate recovery of President Bouteflika who has recently undergone medical treatment.
President Bouteflika left a hospital in Paris and returned to Algeria earlier this week.
Bouteflika was rushed to hospital in France on April 27 after a stroke.
The 76-year-old has ruled the North African oil and gas producer since 1999.
In an apparent move to quell speculation about his health, Bouteflika appeared on state television on June 12 meeting his prime minister and army chief of staff at the Institution Nationale des Invalides in Paris.
US diplomatic cables leaked in 2011 said Bouteflika had been suffering from cancer but it was in remission.
Nuclear Contamination Drill
Head of the Passive Defense Organization Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali said Iran plans to hold exercises to increase its preparedness for any possible nuclear contamination scenario.