No Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs, says Ahmadinejad

( dpa ) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview published Saturday his country does not intervene in Iraqi affairs and that his visit to Baghdad on Sunday was not about meeting US wishes or pursuing any secret political deals.

"There are no Iranian interventions in the Iraqi issue. These allegations appeared due to the American failure in war management, including its failure in Iraq," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in the Iraqi newspaper al Sabah.

He added that his visit to Baghdad underscored the Iranian wish to maintain good relations with all countries in the region, particularly with Iraq.

" Iran seeks friendly relations with all states in the region and aims at making Iraq a spot for open dialogue, rather than being an area of conflict," the Iranian president said.

The state visit would serve to activate economic accords between the two countries and to implement infrastructure projects that would help in reconstructing Iraq, in addition to mutual cooperation in cultural and scientific fields, he said.

"We have dedicated special funds to carry out infrastructure projects in Iraq ... and we aim at activating these projects during the visit," Ahmadinejad said.

Projects to link the electricity grids of the two countries were also planned, he explained, adding that there is growing economic cooperation between Iran and Iraq.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Ahmadinejad's visit would expand bilateral relations.

"This state visit is a big step," Mottaki was quoted by al-Sabah as saying.

He charged there were allegations and false reports as the Ahmadinejad's visit in Baghdad drew closer.

"This event will be misinterpreted by all of those who do not desire any developments in relations between Iraq and the Islamic republic," Mottaki said.

Meanwhile, Iraq was busy preparing for the visit, the first by an Iranian president to the country in decades.

"The Iranian president will stay at Iraq's president Jalal Talabni's residence after his arrival in Baghdad," presidential office spokesman Nasseer al-Aany was quoted as telling al-Sabah.

He added: "Continuous meetings are still being held in Baghdad to prepare for this important visit."

On Wednesday, an Iranian delegation, including Iranian ministers of foreign affairs, transportation and petroleum, arrived in the Iraqi capital to prepare for the visit.

Iran and Iraq were embroiled in a devastating eight-year war (1980-1988) in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides were killed and injured. Vast war-damaged border regions have not yet been fully redeveloped after almost two decades.

Following the US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein's Baath regime, the two countries agreed to put the past behind them and to start a new era of cooperation.

Iran has constantly denied US allegations of supporting and providing weapons to insurgents in Iraq and said that it would regard Iraq's peace and security as its own.

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