BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Iran on Saturday for a two-day visit with top leaders, in which he is expected to allay Iranians’ concerns about the United States’ continuing influence over Iraq.
The visit is al-Maliki’s fourth since he was elected and comes just days after the U.S. handed over military control of the Green Zone to Iraq and began a drawdown calling for the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Iran initially opposed the pact, accusing the United States of seeking to maintain its dominance over Iraq. American officials, for their part, have objected to Iran’s influence over next-door neighbor Iraq, including its ability to sway radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.
Iran’s influence in Iraq has grown significantly since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled the Sunni-dominated government of President Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of Shiite-run Iran.
Al-Maliki, himself a Shiite, met Saturday with Iranian Vice President Parviz Dawoodi.
Today, al-Maliki is expected to discuss economic, transportation and electricity issues with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.