TEHRAN 20 July (IPS) Iraqi Prime Minister Ebrahim al-Ja’fari ended on Tuesday 19 July 2005 a three days official visit to Tehran that some analysts described as “historic” and “opening a new, landmark” in the troubled Baghdad-Tehran relations.
The Iraqi Premier, from the majority Shi’ate community, met all senior Iranian officials, including the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i and President Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who was defeated at last presidential elections, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the Iraqi-born Head of the Judiciary and Mr. Qolamali Haddad Adel, the Speaker, all of them he knew well for having lived in Iran for almost ten years after the deposed Iraq president Saddam Hussein shut the al-Da’wa Party to which he belonged.
certainly the most interesting of all the meetings was with Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad
But certainly the most interesting of all the meetings was with Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, the president-elect, as he was probably the first foreign high ranking personality to have met the next Iranian president, described a fundamentalist Muslim in the line of the leader, meaning anti-American.
That’s the reason why some Iranian analysts believes that the Americans might have encouraged the visit, in the hope that Mr. Ja’fari would be able to brief them on his return about the personality of the future Iranian president who is almost unknown to outside world as well as most Iranians except of the inhabitants of the Capital Tehran, where he served as Mayor for the last two years.
Though Mr. Ja’fari was assured by all his Iranian interlocutors of their full and sincere determination to help restoring peace and security in Iraq and fight growing terrorism, but observers noted that no major issue pending between the two nations have been solved, like war damage compensations that Iran estimates at hundreds of billions US Dollars and the question of the military and civilian planes Mr. Hussein sent to Iran to save them from destruction by the American-led international forces in 1990, with Baghdad putting the number of the planes at 200 and Tehran insisting that they received some 20, most of them badly damaged while crush-landing.
“Those are issues that must be discussed at other time, as we had many other more urgent problems like security, helping Iraq’s economy and fighting terrorism to talk with Mr. al-Ja’fari”, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s senior spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told journalists during his last press briefing.
The reason that the two countries can not reach agreement on these problems is that no government in Iraq, even those installed by the Americans after the fall of the former dictator have never accepted Iranian claims on war damages or the fate of the planes, some 20 Boeing airliners and 200 Russian-made jet fighters and bombers or French-made Mirages.
Nevertheless, the Iranians tried hard to be as nice and cooperative as possible with the Iraqi guest that had come bringing with himself a 70-members delegation made of 10 ministers, lawmakers and, tradesmen and industrialists.
Aware of the fact that the Iraqi government has the endorsement of the Americans, the Iranians avoided strong criticism of the American presence in Iraq, limiting it to observations by Ayatollah Khameneh’i who, receiving Mr. Ja’fari in the north-eastern holy city of Mash-had, had pointed to the “harms American soldiers inflicts on the Muslim people of Iraq”.
But at the same time, he welcomed the formation of the present Iraqi government and hoped that things would get normalised after the adoption of a permanent constitution, leading to a new parliament and a government and reiterated Iran’s determination of fighting terrorism in Iraq.
In response, al-Ja’fari hoped his visit will wipe out the bitter memory of the stained relations between the two countries and open a new chapter in the historical relations between the two brotherly nations. “We are aware of the pains and suffering Saddam inflicted on Iranian people and other neighbours, but he did not represented the Iraqi people and nations”, the Iraqi premier appointed as Head of the Government on April 7, 2005 by Iraqi National Assembly told his hosts.
But on the economic side, results of the visit were more concrete, as Tehran opened a one billion credit line for Iranian firms that would help developing Iraqi industries.
The United States should not try to hinder the development of bilateral relations between Iran and Iraq.
Iran also agreed to the construction of three pipelines, including a 40 kilometres pipeline taking light Iraqi crude from field in Basra to the Iranian refinery of Abadan, situated opposite to Basra on the bank of the border river Shat el Arab, or Arvand Roud, and importing kerosene, diesel and refined products.
"The idea is for Iran to buy 150,000 barrels per day of Basra light crude. In return, Iran will provide petrol, heating oil and kerosene", Iran’s outgoing Oil Minister Bizhad Namdar-Zanganeh said, adding that the latter two products would come from Iranian refineries but that the petrol would have to be imported.
Iraq, which has the world’s second largest proven crude reserves after Saudi Arabia has faced chronic shortages of refined products ever since the US-led invasion of 2003, as insurgents have targeted its oil infrastructure, bringing production from the northern fields around Kirkouk to a virtual standstill.
The tow sides, both members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also signed number of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on rail, road, air and maritime transport, banking, trade and energy, with Iran supplying the southern parts of Iraq with much needed electricity.
The Iraqi prime minister’s spokesman, Laith Kubba, told “al-Arabiyya” satellite television on Tuesday that the United States should not try to hinder the development of bilateral relations between Iran and Iraq.
“The U.S. should know that Iran is a significant neighbor of Iraq and that it is not reasonable to disapprove of the strengthening of relations between two neighboring countries”, he said, adding that the recent visit of Mr. al-Jaafai and his delegation to Tehran indicates Iraqis’ “serious intention to have strong, friendly relations with their Iranian brothers”.
“It is quite natural for the two neighboring countries, which share many religious and cultural affinities, to attempt to strengthen their bilateral relations, Kubba added. ENDS IRAN IRAQ RELATIONS 20705