Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq, saying there can be no peace in the region as long as foreign troops are there. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.
In a live broadcast on Iraqi television, the Iranian leader said Iraqis hated the presence of foreign troops. He said foreign forces needed to respect people in the region by leaving and allowing them to run their own affairs.
He says all they have seen is destruction, problems, and sectarian violence. He said if foreign forces would withdraw Iraq could become a strong nation, serving the region and helping to improve security.
Mr. Ahmadinejad made the comments on the last day of a two-day visit to Iraq. It was the first trip to Iraq by an Iranian leader in decades and leaders from the traditional enemies said it would open a new chapter in their relations.
The two sides signed seven memorandums of understanding on trade and industrial development, including a one-billion dollar loan from Iran for Iraq's reconstruction efforts.
Iraq and Iran fought a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s that killed about a million people. But, after the 2003 U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein Iran's influence inside Iraq has grown, sparking concerns in Washington.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said foreign forces were always trying to destroy the brotherly relations between Iraq and Iran.
He says this visit proves there is once again a strong, fraternal relationship between the two countries.
The United States says Iran is supplying advanced weapons to Shiite militias inside Iraq that have killed hundreds of coalition and Iraqi troops and civilians.
Mr. Ahmadinejad rejected the accusations and said they were based on lies.
Security was tight in Baghdad during the Iranian president's visit, with thousands of extra police and troops on hand and several major roads blocked-off. Despite the measures, two suicide bombers detonated in central and eastern parts of the city, killing at least 23 people and wounding 43 others.