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Iraqi Official in Iran for Talks on Possible US Attack - 2002-09-29

Iraq's foreign minister is in Tehran for talks with senior Iranian officials to lobby for support from its old arch-enemy against a possible U.S.-led attack against Baghdad. while Tehran is no friend of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, there is growing concern an attack against Iraq could affect political stability in Iran.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Sunday the United States was a threat not just to Iraq but to the entire Islamic world. His comments came after a meeting with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in Tehran.

Mr. Sabri is in Iran trying to rebuild relations with its former arch-enemy and a consensus against any U-S led attack against Iraq.

The two men kissed as they greeted each other at a former royal palace in northern Tehran. President Khatami asked the foreign minister how is Mr. Saddam? Mr. Sabri replied, fine, thank you.

Mr. Sabri arrived in Tehran carrying a message from Saddam Hussein concerning the improvement of Iranian-Iraqi relations. Iran and Iraq have yet to fully restore diplomatic ties following their 1980-to-1988 war in which more than a million people were killed.

The foreign minister's visit is being viewed with skepticism by some. The Iran News said Sunday the only thing Mr. Sabri's visit would accomplish for Iran was to associate Iran with a regime that is in its dying days.

A close aide to President Khatami was quoted as saying Iran would prefer anyone ruling Iraq to Saddam Hussein.

However, officials in Tehran have voiced concern that a regime change in Iraq could place Iran under greater U-S pressure, and Iranian newspapers said Mr. Sabri's visit appeared to be trying to appeal to the Islamic republic's concerns.

Mr. Sabri met with the Iranian president for one hour. There were no comments following the meeting.