Maliki tries to soothe Iranian apprehensions over SOFA; Rafsanjani wraps us his 10-day visit to Saudi Arabia
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  • The proposed Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement being negotiated with the United States occupied centre-stage during Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Tehran visit beginning from June 7. This was the third visit of Maliki to Iran since taking over as the Prime Minister two years ago. Iranian leaders have repeatedly urged Iraqi government not to sign the SOFA with the US over maintaining the US soldiers in the country beyond 2008. Iranian leaders have charged that the presence of occupation forces in Iraq was the root cause of the existing problems in the country and main threat to the country’s unity1. 2 Maliki tried to tone down Iranian opposition to the deal and assured his hosts that the proposed security pact would not be used to harm Iran and that Baghdad would not allow its territory to be used as a base to damage the security of the neighbouring countries, including Iran2. 3 Even domestically, the toughest opposition to the SOFA has come from the followers of anti-US Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has close ties with Tehran3. 1

    In other developments, the chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wrapped up his 10-day visit to Saudi Arabia on June 10. Both the countries agreed to expand their religious and political ties as well as pledged to avoid ‘extremist’ behavior in bilateral ties. Rafsanjani was in Mecca to attend the International Conference on the Islamic Inter-faith Dialogue4.