Iran, Iraq vow to expand defense co-op

By Xinhua,

Tehran : Iran and Iraq vowed Sunday to expand their defense cooperation, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.

Support TwoCircles

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his visiting Iraqi counterpart Abdul Qadir Mohammed Jassim Obeidi al-Mifarji voiced the intention during their meeting.

During the meeting, Najjar highlighted the strategic status of Iran and Iraq, saying that consolidation and bolstering of defense ties between the two countries would play a significant role in safeguarding peace, stability as well as ensuring durable security in the region, IRNA reported.

The Iranian defense minister noted that both Iran and Iraq are highly capable of broadening and bolstering mutual relations especially in the defense and security fronts.

Iran’s principles are based on supporting the legal Iraqi government, Najjar said adding that the country is to support Iraqi military forces restore security in the war-torn country.

The Iraqi defense minister, who are accompanying Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for a visit to Iran, also underlined the need for expansion of defense relations between the two countries.

“Rebuilding a new powerful army in Iraq requires benefiting from Iran’s invaluable experience and capabilities,” al-Mifarji said. “We try to make the Iraqi army independent.”

Friendly ties between Iran and Iraq would be to the benefit of security and stability of the region, he said.

At the meeting, the two sides also discussed expansion of defense cooperation and agreed to continue exchange of visits by defense officials of the two countries, according to IRNA.

Their vow to expend defense cooperation came as the United States is pressuring Baghdad to sign an agreement that would allow U.S. soldiers in the country to stay beyond 2008.

Iraqi critics of the agreement said that it means Iraq will be a client state in which the United States will keep more than 50 military bases and American soldiers will enjoy legal immunity.

Iran fiercely opposes the agreement, which is expected to be signed by midsummer, and has always called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.