Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Stepping up his verbal assault on the U.S., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said during his visit to Iraq that the U.S.-led forces should withdraw from the strife-torn nation.

“We believe the forces that came from overseas and travelled thousands of kilometres to reach here must leave the region, and must hand over responsibility to the people of the region,” said Mr. Ahmadinejad at a press conference. Without directly naming the U.S., he added: “Without the presence of the foreign troops the region will live in peace and brotherhood.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad arrived in Baghdad on Sunday on a two-day visit — the first by an Iranian President since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Iranian President observed that foreign presence in Iraq was an “insult to the regional nations and a humiliation.”

Embittered ties

According to Mr. Ahmadinejad, the presence of “foreigners” had embittered their relations with the countries of the region.

Asked by a reporter how he knew that the Americans were disliked, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, “Iraqi people have been anti-colonialist and anti-occupation in the course of their history. If you go to the streets and talk to ordinary Iraqi people, you will be able to realise the true nature of such a claim.”

On Monday, Iran and Iraq signed a series of agreements to anchor a long-term partnership.

These agreements covered the fields of customs and insurance, industry, transportation and development of mining industries.

The Iranian and Iraqi Energy Ministers are also expected to attend a ground breaking ceremony for establishing two power plants in Najaf and Karbala, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. During the course of the two-day visit, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hosts praised Iran for helping to stabilise the security situation in Iraq.

At a joint press conference with Mr. Ahmadinejad on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said “the position Iran has taken recently was very helpful in bringing back security and stability.” He observed that the “level of trust [between Iraq and Iran] is very high.”

In an expression of affection for the visiting leader, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asked Mr. Ahmadinejad on Monday to call him, “Uncle Jalal.”