Region | Iraq

Preparations under way for Ahmadinejad visit

The arrangements for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Baghdad next week are no less important than the political aspect of the visit scheduled for Sunday by American's most vehement opponent, Iraqi officials said.

  • By Basil Adas, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:30 February 29, 2008
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: EPA
  • President Ahmadinejad is arriving in Iraq on Sunday. Officials say he will be aware of a high US presence.

Baghdad: The arrangements for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Baghdad next week are no less important than the political aspect of the visit scheduled for Sunday by American's most vehement opponent, Iraqi officials said.

"It is a strange and complex scene because President Ahmadinejad will be among thousands of American troops and warplanes; He is a friend of the Iraqi government, yet he is America's mortal enemy, we are the American Army's allies and friends," Rasheed Al Hussaini, an officer in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told Gulf News.

"To be honest with you I have a feeling that we will hide the Iranian President when he comes to Baghdad and protect him from the eyes of American soldiers", he added.

President Ahmadinejad's plane will land at Baghdad International Airport, an area which is controlled and monitored by American forces. The road from the airport to the Iranian President's place of residence is a highway crowded with American military vehicles. Certainly Ahmadinejad will glimpse US military uniforms, a country which is threatening Iran with war or devastating air strikes in the future.

Security forces from many parties are expected to take part in securing the Iranian President's safety, Iraqi politicians said.

"I think that special forces from the Badr Organisation of Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, the President of the Supreme Islamic Council, and Kurdish forces from Sulaymaniya will protect the Iranian President during his residence in Baghdad and his movement in Iraqi cities," said high political sources in the Kurdistan Patriotic Union Party (which is headed by the Iraqi President Jalal Al Talabani).

Speaking to Gulf News, the sources added, "besides special forces of the Interior Ministry will be supported by Al Hakim and Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki will back the Badr and Kurdish forces."

According to Kurdish and Shiite sources, preparations are proceeding to prepare a special suite for the Iranian president in his Iraqi counterpart's house and another one in Al Hakim's, the Shiite coalition leader.

Ahmadinejad will be given the option to choose where to stay between the two houses, which are both located in the Al Masbah district on the banks of the Tigris River.

Iraqi sources also said arrangements have also been taken for chefs to present the best Iraqi food to the Iranian President.

Meanwhile, Amir Al Zubaidi, prominent in the Shiite Supreme Council, told Gulf News: "There is an Iraqi desire that the Iranian President visit Al Sadr and Al Karada neighbourhoods which are inhabited by a Shiite majority in Baghdad but we are still studying and discussing the matter".

Iraqi Interior Ministry sources said that Iranian intelligence officers came to Baghdad to participate in the preparation of security procedures for Ahmadinejad's visit as well as Iraqi security officials.

Meanwhile, a date for a fourth round of Iran-US talks on Iraq's security will be set before mid-March, Iraq's foreign minister said yesterday, two weeks after Tehran postponed a previously scheduled expert-level meeting with US diplomats.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the US-funded Al Hurra TV there had been "technical difficulties" in getting the two sides together. But a date for the next session will be confirmed before March 15, he said without elaborating. The US and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. A meeting last May between the American and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq broke the freeze. They met again last summer and there has been one other meeting.

- AP

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