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Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 17:18 GMT
Tehran hosts 'surprise' Iraq visit
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi (R) meets with his Iraqi counterpart Naji Sabri in Tehran
Iran is not believed to have much sympathy for Iraq

The Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, has made a surprise visit to Tehran to talk to Iranian officials.

The trip was apparently unscheduled and it comes amid strong opposition from sections of the Iranian leadership.

The Iranian official news agency said Mr Sabri went straight into talks with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, as soon as he arrived in the Iranian capital.

Mr Sabri's visit follows Mr Kharrazi's recent meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, where the Iranian politician stressed the importance of avoiding war.

Diplomatic efforts

Mr Sabri was due to visit Iran early last month, but the trip was cancelled amid strong opposition from reformist politicians.

Some MPs had even threatened to impeach Mr Kharrazi if he had invited the Iraqi foreign minister to the country.

They said it was against Iran's national interests to welcome a senior official of a regime which in their opinion was soon to be overthrown.

The Iranian official news agency said the Iraqi foreign minister's presence in Tehran displays Iran's increasing diplomatic efforts to avert a war in the region.

The invitation to Mr Sabri does not mean that the Iranian Government has any sympathy for Saddam Hussain.

The two countries fought a bloody war in the 1980s which claimed more than one million lives.

While Tehran officially opposes any foreign war against Iraq, it has allowed the Iraqi opposition groups to use its territory for anti-Saddam activities.


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