King Abdullah of Jordan on Monday arrived in Baghdad for a surprise visit to Iraq as a gesture of support for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his national reconciliation efforts, dpa reported.
During talks with al-Maliki and Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, the monarch expressed "deep keenness on Iraq's stability and security, which represents an integral part of the Arab nation's stability and security," a royal court statement said.
The Sunni Jordan "stands at equal distances from all components of the Iraqi people and urges all shades of the Iraqi political spectrum, be they Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds, to close ranks and put their internal affairs in order as the sole way for building up a unified and sovereign Iraq," King Abdullah told Iraqi leaders.
The monarch became the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq since the downfall of former Iraqi regime of President Saddam Hussein at the hands of a world military coalition led by the United States in 2003.
Jordan paved the ground for the monarch's visit to Iraq by recently appointing an ambassador to lead the Jordanian diplomatic mission in Baghdad which was the target for a fatal bombing in August 2003.
Arab and Western commentators said that Jordan and other Arab countries decided to appoint ambassadors in Baghdad in response to pressure from the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited the region last month.
During his talks with Iraqi leaders on Monday, King Abdullah urged all Arab countries "to extend their hand to Iraq at this juncture because the existence of a strong Iraq is a source of strength for the Arab nation", the royal court statement said.
The monarch underscored the importance of boosting bilateral economic ties and encouraging the private sectors in the two countries "to explore the opportunities of carrying out joint ventures", it added.
Jordan hopes to restore its oil imports from Iraq at preferential prices, a privilege which it lost by the overthrow of Saddam's government.
Between Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Jordan received Iraqi oil at half price.
Jordan and Iraq signed an agreement for supplying the Hashemite Kingdom with Iraqi crude at preferential prices, but the lack of security hindered the application of the accord.
King Abdullah also aspires to see the Jordanian private sector play a key role in Iraq's reconstruction, which has been delayed until the restoration of security in the war-ravaged neighbouring country.
The monarch was accompanied during the visit by Prime Minister Nader Dahabi, Chief of the Royal Court Bassem Awadallah and head of the General Intelligence Department Mohammad Dahabi.