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Iran president on landmark Iraq visit

  • Story Highlights
  • Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian president to visit Iraq and was invited to visit
  • He met President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
  • Ahmadinejad said his visit would "contribute to regional peace and security"
  • Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 after a territorial dispute, resulting in an eight-year war
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Baghdad Sunday for the start of a historic two-day trip, said "visiting Iraq without the dictator is a good thing."

The Shiite-led Iraqi government rolled out the red carpet, literally, for Ahmadinejad as he became the first Iranian president to visit Iraq, a country that was a bitter enemy when Saddam Hussein's Sunni government was in power.

Ahmadinejad, at a joint news conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, said the trip "opens a new chapter in bilateral ties with Iraq."

"We have had good talks in a friendly and constructive environment," Ahmadinejad said. "We have the same understanding of things and the two parties are determined to strengthen their political, economic and cultural cooperation."

Later in the day, Ahmadinejad met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Both al-Maliki and Talabani have made official trips to Iran since taking office.

At a joint news conference with al-Maliki in Baghdad's Green Zone, Ahmadinejad did not hide his disdain for the United States and its leadership.

"(U.S. President) Bush always accuses others without evidence and this increases problems," Ahmadinejad said. "The Americans have to understand that Iraqi people do not like America." Video Watch Ahmadinejad comment on the U.S. presence in Iraq »

The United States has accused Iran of supporting some insurgent groups in Iraq, including supplying EFPs, the deadliest and most sophisticated type of roadside bomb.

Ahmadinejad shunned the security measures followed by many other leaders on visits to Baghdad, riding from Baghdad's airport in a civilian-style sedan -- and not an armored military vehicle or helicopter -- to central Baghdad.

His official welcome and meeting with Talabani was at the presidential house outside of the heavily-fortified International Zone where most high-level events in Baghdad are held.

Ahmadinejad said a unified and powerful Iraq is in the best interest of Iran and all its neighbors.

"Iraqi people are passing through a critical situation but as we know, the Iraqi people will overcome the situation and the Iraq of tomorrow will be a powerful, developed and unique Iraq," he said.

Ahmadinejad was warmly welcomed in Baghdad. An Iraqi military band played the Iranian and Iraqi national anthems as Ahmadinejad and Talabani stood side-by-side at the end of a long red carpet outside the presidential house. Ahmadinejad then walked down the carpet where he was greeted by two Iraqi children with flowers and a long line of Iraqi officials.

Ahead of his trip, Ahmadinejad said it would "contribute to regional peace and security" and stressed that the people of Iran and Iraq share close bonds.

"My visit to Iraq is to the benefit of all countries, because if there's peace, if we establish peace and put an end to (U.S.) occupation, that will be to the benefit of all countries," the Iranian leader told Tehran-based Press TV before his departure.

Although Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 after a territorial dispute, and the two countries fought an eight-year war, Ahmadinejad said the nations share a common history.

"The people of Iran and Iraq have close bonds, and there are many holy shrines in Iraq," he said. "People travel there, so we have age-old, historical bonds and common civilization."

He noted that Iraq has a new government, and is an "independent state."

"We should help them," he added.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution that would impose new sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

"We don't care about new resolutions. In such a case, the world would realize that even the United Nations has been oppressed," Ahmadinejad said. "The United Nations has turned into an instrument."

The nuclear issue, he said, has been "politicized."

"They cannot force the Iranian nation to engage in negotiations, but if they commit such a blunder, that would be a major blow to mechanisms they use for having their power," Ahmadinejad said.

He said the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has confirmed the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program.

The United States and other nations have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

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On the Israeli attacks waged against Palestinian militants in Gaza, Ahmadinejad said, "They are launching strikes against Gaza, and this is a starting point, and this scheme is doomed to failure, and this time the Israelis will be eradicated."

Asked about Iran's parliamentary elections on March 14, Ahmadinejad said there are about 5,400 candidates -- 600 of them from different political parties. He said all the candidates would receive "equal chances," although critics say hundreds of reformists have been disqualified from voting. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Mahmoud AhmadinejadIranIraqJalal TalabaniInternational Atomic Energy AgencyUnited Nations

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