BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a visit to Iran where he met yesterday with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pledged closer ties between the two neighbors at the same time Baghdad is negotiating a long-term security agreement with the United States.
The proposed pact with Washington, D.C., would establish a legal framework for the continued presence of US troops in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.
Iranian officials repeatedly have expressed concerns in recent weeks that the agreement simply will formalize the presence of dozens of American military bases.
In a roundtable public affairs program broadcast on Iranian television, one panelist compared American bases in Iraq to the installation of Russian missiles in Cuba during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union.
But Maliki, after meeting with Ahmadinejad, said the agreement would help maintain and enhance Iraq's still-fragile security situation.
"A stable Iraq will be a benefit to the security of the region and the world," Maliki said, according to Ahmadinejad's official website.
Ahmadinejad indicated concerns that an agreement could lead to long-term American domination of Iraq.
"Iraq must reach a certain level of stability," he said, according to an Associated Press report, "so that its enemies are not able to impose their influence."
Maliki, after arriving in Tehran, the Iranian capital, Saturday, had said his government "will not allow Iraq to become a platform for harming the security of Iran," according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
Maliki's three-day visit to Iran is his third since taking office in May 2006. Relations between the two former enemy nations have flourished since the US-led ousting of Saddam Hussein allowed Iraq's long-persecuted Shi'ite Muslim majority to rise to political power.