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Iran’s Rouhani seeks to boost ties on first visit to Baghdad


Iraqi President Barham Salih, right, shakes hands with visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at Salam Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, March 11, 2019. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on Monday, making his first official visit to the nation that Tehran once fought a bloody war against. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was in Baghdad on Monday, making his first official visit to the nation that Tehran once fought a bloody war against and later backed in the battle with the Islamic State group.


Since Rouhani’s election in 2013, Iraq has relied on Iranian paramilitary support to fight IS, following the militant group’s capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul and other territory in both Iraq and Syria.


Now with the militants facing a final territorial defeat in the Syrian village of Baghouz, Iran is looking for Iraq’s continued support as it faces a maximalist pressure campaign by President Donald Trump after his decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.


Rouhani, who is accompanied on the three-day visit by a high-ranking political and economic delegation, was received by an honor guard on landing in Baghdad, where he was welcomed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim.


Rouhani then visited the shrine of Imam Kadhim, the seventh of 12 clerics revered by Shiites worldwide. Rouhani, a Shiite cleric himself, paused to reach out and touch the gate surrounding the imam’s tomb.


He then met President Barham Salih and spoke to journalists, telling them that a “stable Iraq will lead to stability in the entire region.”


“We want to be united countries, not against others, but attracting others to our unity,” Rouhani said.



Associated Press

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