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Iraq, Iran To Hold Talks

Iraq's prime minister will visit Iran on Monday, the government said Saturday.

Nouri al-Maliki's two-day visit will focus on security and bilateral relations, the Cabinet said in a statement.

The visit will come a week after al-Maliki's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, visited Tehran as head of a delegation that included the minister of state for foreign affairs, and the ministers of trade, planning and finance.

The trip "is to confirm the establishment of friendly and balanced relations based on common interest and respect of the sovereignty of the two countries without any interference in internal affairs," the statement said.

In other developments:

  • Millions of Shiite pilgrims thronged the streets of the holy city of Karbala Saturday for a religious festival, and Iraqi army and police deployed to prevent possible infiltration from suicide bombers. About 4 million people were in Karbala for the festival observing the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, a 9th-century religious leader, said Iraqi armed forces general command spokesman Brig. Qassim al-Musawi.
  • Two roadside bombs planted four yards from each other exploded Saturday as a police foot patrol passed by in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing four people, including one policeman, and wounding 16 others, police Col. Taiyb Taha said.
  • In Baghdad's central Karradah district, gunmen shot and killed Abdul Karim al-Rubaie, a technician of Iraq's government-run newspaper al-Sabah, and wounded his driver, police said Saturday.
  • Authorities said Iraqi police kept a suicide car bomber from striking a police station near a mosque in northern Baghdad by shooting the driver before he could reach the building. But the explosives in his car still detonated, killing one policeman and wounding 10 civilians, the Interior Ministry said.
  • According to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq released Friday, there's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda associates. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.
  • Al-Jazeera aired Thursday previously unshown footage of the preparations for the Sept. 11 attacks in which al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is seen meeting with some of the planners and hijackers in a mountain camp in Afghanistan. included the last will and testaments of two of the hijackers, Wail al-Shehri and Hamza al-Ghamdi.
  • The Senate agreed to spend an additional $63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as lawmakers on Thursday passed a massive bill that funds the Pentagon. The bill sailed through by a vote of 98-0. The bill now totals $469.7 billion. It grew by more than $16 billion during a debate that began in July before it was suspended during lawmakers' four-week August recess.

    The announcement comes a day after reports emerged of a border incident in which Iranian border guards detained an Iraqi patrol.

    Iraq's Defense Ministry issued a statement Saturday saying it had begun an investigation into the incident, saying the seven-man patrol — an officer, an interpreter and five soldiers — were detained as they drove near a border station in the border area of Khanaqin, 87 miles northeast of Baghdad close to the Iranian border.

    Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Friday that the patrol had entered Iranian territory, crossing the border in Maymak, some 500 miles southwest of Tehran.

    Neither the Iraqi ministry nor IRNA gave details of when the incident occurred.

    U.S. officials have accused the Islamic Republic of not doing enough to stop militants from infiltrating Iraq across the shared nearly 1,000 mile-long porous border. But they have still encouraged Iraq to have good relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran.

    Since the U.S.-led invasion swept Saddam from power in 2003, Iraq has tried to build closer ties with Iran and heal scars left by the 1980-88 war that killed more than 1 million people on both sides.

    Iraq's now dominant majority Shiite community has worked to establish good relations with the Shiite religious regime in Tehran.

    In July 2005, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made a landmark visit to Iran, the first by an Iraqi premier since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

    Since then, Iraq has tried to build closer ties with Iran and heal scars left by the 1980-88 war that killed more than 1 million people on both sides.

    Relations between Iraq and Iran remained cool after their eight-year war, with Iran supporting anti-Saddam groups and the former Iraqi leader hosting the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian militia that fought the Shiite religious regime in Tehran.

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