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Iraqi Prime Minister welcomes invitation to visit Iran

Najaf, Aug 14, IRNA -- Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has welcomed an invitation to visit Iran despite a recent war of words which have dogged ties between the two neighbors. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced Tuesday that Allawi had been invited to pay an official visit to Iran.

"We want establishment of good relations with neighboring countries, especially Iran, and believe that our bilateral ties are based on common interests," Allawi told IRNA reporter at this Iraqi holy city Saturday.

Allawi's conciliatory statements come in the wake of accusations levelled by few interim Iraqi government officials, including Defense Minister Hazem al-Shalaan, accusing Iran of interference in Iraq's domestic affairs.

The Iraqi prime minister stressed that 'the complaint` had only been made against 'unofficial figures` in Iran, saying, "We do not accuse the Iranian government of interference in Iraq's domestic affairs."

They also follow the arrest of several Iranians in Iraq, including four IRNA correspondents and a consular official.

Baghdad bureau chief Mostafa Darban and two Iraqi staff, Mohammed Khafaji and Mohsen Madani, have been arrested and Iranian officials say the fate of the fourth is still unaccounted for.

Tehran said one of its consular officials in Iraq, Fereidoun Jahani, had disappeared on August 4 on the road between Baghdad and Karbala.

A statement from a group, calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, has alleged that Jahani was 'detained for stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties'.

An unnamed source has been quoted as saying that the group had acted in collaboration with the US embassy in Iraq under direct supervision of US ambassador John Negroponte.

Iran has twice summoned Iraq's top diplomat to Tehran for explanation following the accusations, including allegations that four Iranian intelligence officers had been arrested on suspicion of spying and carrying out acts of sabotage in the country.

... Payvand News - 8/14/04 ... --

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