Iran openly backs Iraqi PM Maliki for second term

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Tehran, Oct 19 (ANI): Iran has reportedly for the first time publicly backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to lead Iraq for a second term, hours after Maliki arrived in Tehran today for a 'rare meeting' with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to The Guardian, Iran's deputy foreign minister, Rauf Sheibani, said that Maliki was "one of the suitable choices" to lead the next government.

Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has reportedly urged Iraq to resolve the political impasse that has afflicted the country since the inconclusive elections in March.

"Formation of a government as soon as possible and establishment of full security are among the important needs of Iraq because development and reconstruction of Iraq ... can't be achieved without these two," he added.

Maliki is scheduled to travel to Qom later to meet his former enemy turned ally Moqtada al-Sadr, who has aligned his powerful political bloc with Maliki's coalition, the paper reports.

On Monday, it was reported that Iran had, in a behind-the-scenes move, negotiated a critical deal between Sadr and Maliki that could help install a pro-Tehran government in Iraq, a move that would empower the country to shift from a sphere of western influence.

The deal that involved Syria and Hezbollah-a Shi'a Islamist political and paramilitary organisation in Lebanon, positions Maliki, as a frontrunner to return as leader despite a seven-month stalemate between Iraq's feuding political blocs.

It further positions Iran as a potential dampener to US interests, especially at a time when America is trying to change its relationship with Iraq from military overlords to civilian partners.

Mahmoud Shater, a member of the rival Shia Islamic bloc to Maliki, called the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, said: "Iran has a stronger role than America here. The Shia coalition has no one else to support them apart from Iran. The Saudis or the Turks will not support them, so what will they do? The Shia in Iraq were oppressed for 35 years and it is now the time for them to take their rights." (ANI)

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