Ahmadinejad accepts invite to visit Iraq
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted a formal invitation for a state visit to Iraq, though the date has not yet been set, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
Word of the visit — which would be the first by an Iranian leader to Iraq — comes at a time when U.S. accusations of Iranian meddling in Iraq have eased, but as concern over nuclear programs and an incident in the Strait of Hormuz have increased tensions.
Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, Labeed Abawi, said the invitation was made by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.
Both Talabani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have visited Iran in recent months.
Iran and Iraq fought a ruinous eight-year war in the 1980s in which more than a million people on both sides of the conflict were killed. But with a Shiite-dominated government coming to power in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, relations between Iran and Iraq have improved.
According to wire services, an Iranian presidential spokesman confirmed the invitation and said the scheduling had not been set.
For months, the U.S. military and government have accused Iran of training and arming Shiite fighters in Iraq. The U.S. military repeatedly has issued press releases reporting the seizure of Iranian-made weapons, particularly advanced rockets and armor-piercing improvised bombs.
In recent weeks, however, U.S. officials have said that from October through December, the number of attacks involving Iranian-manufactured or -provided weapons has decreased.
The first two weeks of January saw an increase, according to U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, but they said it was too early to say whether that increase would continue.
Iran and the U.S. also have been locked in disputes over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions and an incident on Jan. 6 in which small Iranian craft allegedly harassed U.S. warships transiting the Strait of Hormuz.