BAGHDAD, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki Sunday prepared for an Iranian trip designed to enhance relationships between the neighbors.
The two-day visit starting Monday will focus on identifying "mutual interests" that respect "the sovereignty of the two countries," Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabagh was quoted as saying in Sunday's New York Times.
A delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih went to Iran last week to pave the way for Maliki's visit.
American and Sunni Arab officials have long accused Iran, a Shiite-ruled country, of interfering in Iran's political and military affairs. Many religious Iraqi Shiite parties, including Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, have close ties to Iran -- Maliki himself lived in Tehran while in exile during Saddam Hussein's rule.
But ordinary Iraqis are generally suspicious of Iran, whose ethnic Persians have traditionally rivaled Arabs for influence in the region, the Times noted.