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Iraq wants good cooperative relations with Iran, says Zebari

London, April 1, IRNA -- Foreign Minister of Iraq's Interim Governing Council (IGC) Hoshyar Zebari said Thursday that a priority of the country's incoming provisional government would be to develop mutually beneficial ties with Iran.

"Iraq is interested in having good cooperative relations with Iran," Zebari said.

The Islamic Republic was a "very important regional country" and has "influence inside Iraq," he said.

The Foreign Minister was speaking at a press conference for the Middle East media in London, ahead of holding talks with his British counterpart Jack Straw, when he is expected brief the UK government on the latest security and political situation in Iraq.

Following the US-led war to overthrow Saddam Hussein's region, Iraq has reached out to Iran and to Iran's credit, it was the first regional country to recognize the IGC, he said.

It was in Iran's interests as well as other neighbouring countries to have a "peaceful and stable Iraq," Zebari said.

"The bottom line was not to interfere in each other's internal affairs," he said.

The Foreign Minister said that the interest in good, cooperative relations did not mean that there were still "difficulties and problems" to overcome.

He referred to the "legacy" of Saddam's 8-year war against the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and said that there were still "files open" relating to prisoners of war and borders.

He also suggested that there should be better regulation of Iranian pilgrims.

Recently better border control was established in reducing the number of entry points from Iran from 19 to 3 and the requirement for all visitors to have visas, Zebari said.

It was a key element of Iraq's new foreign policy to have "viable cooperative relations" with the outside world, he said, but excluded Israel by reiterating that this had been repeatedly emphasized by the IGC.

"We will want to change the perception of Iraq from an outlaw or pariah state to a responsible member of the international community," the Foreign Minister said.

With regard to the transition of power in Iraq from the US-UK occupation, he said that the IGC had been holding "extensive consultations with the Coalition Provisional Authority for a smooth transfer at the end of June."

"The country was going through a very critical time in its history and was crucial to defining Iraq," Zebari said.

He anticipated that attacks inside the country would increase as it came closer to the transition date.

He said that he was pleased that the UN had responded to its request to help identify a mechanism and plan and organize elections. His belief was that a new Security Council resolution would be needed to legitimize and transfer power.

... Payvand News - 4/2/04 ... --

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