Iraq PM in Iran for 2-day visit
AFP, Sunday 22 Apr 2012
Iraqi PM Nuri al-Malik pays an official visit to Tehran ahead of May meeting in Baghdad between the Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers on Iran's nuclear program

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived in Tehran on Sunday for two days of meetings with Iranian leaders and senior officials on various bilateral issues, Iran's IRNA state news agency reported.

The visit notably comes ahead of an important May 23 meeting to be hosted in Baghdad between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

Maliki's schedule of meetings including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underlined the current good relations between their Shiite-dominated administrations -- a far cry from the hostility and war that reigned between their countries in the 1980s when Baghdad was run by Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-led government.

Maliki, who was at the head of a delegation of ranking Iraqi political and economic officials, was also to see parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and to attend a meeting of the Iran-Iraq joint economic commission.

The focus of talks was on bilateral, regional and international issues, and to "develop and strengthen bilateral ties," IRNA reported.

It was Maliki's first visit to Tehran since October 2010, when he was trying to secure regional backing for a second term as premier following inconclusive March parliamentary polls.

Iraq and Iran have similar positions on the crisis in Syria, where the regime of Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad has been carrying out a bloody crackdown on an uprising against his rule, in which thousands have died.

But there are some contentious issues between the two countries, including the diversion by Iran of rivers that flow into Iraq, as well as borders and oil.