BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iran plans to link its electrical grid with neighboring Iraq as part of another "extended area of cooperation" between the countries, the Iranian president announced during his historic visit to Iraq.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said at a news conference Sunday that Iran planned to build two new power plants for Iraq. The two countries have already signed a deal to construct cross-border oil pipelines.
With Abdul Aziz al-Hakim -- the head of Iraq's largest Shiite voting bloc -- standing by his side, Ahmadinejad praised the country's Shiite-dominated leadership.
"We believe that the Iraqi nation is able to administer its own affairs and become one of the most developed and strongest nations in the region," the Iranian president said. "We are extremely glad that our brothers who are running Iraq, and are policy-makers in the political process."
Ahmadinejad's visit to Iraq on Sunday and Monday was meant to convey a broader message to the world that Iran will have lasting influence over Iraq's affairs -- more than the United States or any other Western nation.
Iran and Iraq have close cultural and religious ties because their people are predominantly Shiite Muslims.
The Iranian president gave no details about when the power plants will be constructed, saying only that he "arrived at good agreements" with Iraqi leaders during his visit concerning "the expansion of our power plants."
According to Iran's state-run news agency, the two countries will link their power networks through nine border points "in order to supply Iraq with its needed electricity," Iranian Deputy Energy Minister Mohammad Ahmadian announced last week.
"Iraq is a country whose infrastructures, particularly its power plants, have been devastated to a large extent by terrorist attacks and bombing of U.S. troops," Ahmadian said, according to the IRNA report.
One of the two power plants is in Najaf -- considered a holy city by Shiites -- and construction will begin there during Ahmadinejad's two-day trip, Ahmadian said last week, according to IRNA.
The deputy minister also said two 400-kilowatt electricity transmission lines in southwestern Iran, from Abadan and Marivan, and in southern Iran, from to Haresah and Panjwin, are to become operational.
That, according to Ahmadian, will double the amount of electricity that Iran can potentially send to Iraq.
While the plan is largely symbolic to show that Iran is helping its Shiite neighbor, it comes at a time when concerns about the country's intermittent power supply are growing.
Iraq, particularly Baghdad, is in desperate need of a stronger power supply, particularly as the hot days of summer approach.
At a recent U.S. military news conference, Iraqi journalists grilled the country's civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan about why the power supply has not improved since Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.
Dr. Tahseen Sheikhly acknowledged that "electricity in Baghdad is a huge problem," but the journalists' questions clearly put him on the defensive. He stressed that the government's plan to improve Iraq's weak power structure "needs time."
"You say that we haven't been doing anything for the past five years, and I would like to tell you that since 1991 nothing has been achieved," Sheikhly said, according to the translation from the U.S. military.
The country's power infrastructure was largely destroyed during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. E-mail to a friend
CNN Middle East Correspondent Aneesh Raman contributed to this report.