Ahmadinejad Touts 'New Chapter' in Iran-Iraq Relations
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Iran's president completes a historic visit to Iraq today. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian leader to travel to Baghdad since the two countries fought a war that took up most of the 1980s. He told Iraqis that foreign forces should stay out of the region. He also said his trip marked better relations between Iraq and Iran. But as NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports from Baghdad, the visit has made some Iraqis wary.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Ahmadinejad enjoyed all the pomp and circumstance of a formal state visit during his short stay in Iraq.
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TEMPLE-RASTON: He walked along red carpet hand in hand with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and saluted ceremonial guards. Iraqi state-run television ran the Iranian flag on the screen of all its broadcasts during Ahmadinejad's stay.
At a press conference, the Iranian president accentuated the positive.
President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through translator) We negotiated in an atmosphere full of intimacy and brotherly feelings. The negotiations were highly positive.
TEMPLE-RASTON: But the visit by the Shiite leader of Iran particularly angered Sunni-Arabs, who believe Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government functions as a proxy for Iran.
In Baghdad, shopkeeper Ali Abu Hussein(ph) said Iraqis got nothing out of the visit.
Mr. ALI ABU HUSSEIN (Shopkeeper): (Through translator) I'm not very happy about his coming here. What will changed? We want our situation to improve - the economy, security. If his visit brings this, okay. But if not, why should he come?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Small protests erupted in response to the visit. There were street demonstrations in Kirkuk. In the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, demonstrators waved placards, calling the Iranian president a murderer. They claim he supports Shiite-militias that have targeted Sunnis. And in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, pliers appeared on the streets. They warned Iraqis not to be naive about Iran's intentions. They visit today, said one, they take over tomorrow.
Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, Baghdad.