Sunday, December 30, 2007

Iraq to discuss border agreement with Iran

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will send a delegation to neighboring Iran in the coming days to seek slight changes to the agreement that defines the two countries' borders, Iraq's deputy foreign minister Labeed Abbawi said on Saturday.

The announcement came after the two countries appeared to resolve a diplomatic quarrel over the 32-year-old agreement, which erupted this week when Iraq's President Jalal Talabani said the treaty was now void.

Talabani subsequently reversed himself and said the treaty was still valid, although he said Iraq would like to negotiate changes in it.

"We support Talabani's recent stance that the 1975 treaty between Iran and Iraq is valid," Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted on Saturday as saying by the student news agency ISNA.

"This view can be a strong basis for Iran and Iraq's relations."

Iraq's Abbawi said the Iranians had agreed to discuss the issue of changes to the treaty, although he gave no date for the talks.

"Part of the discussion will be on the Algiers treaty, we will discuss the border and try to mark it clearly. There are oil wells on the border and we want their benefits to be split between us," Abbawi told Reuters.

"It is not a problematic issue to Iran. They have agreed to talks on the issue and there isn't a problem," he said.

The Algiers agreement has been a source of dispute since it was signed by Iraq's then-Vice President Saddam Hussein and the shah of Iran in the Algerian capital.

In the 1980s, disagreements over the border resulted in one of the deadliest conflicts in Middle East history, the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in which more than 1 million died. The quarrel centered on the strategic Shatt al-Arab waterway which controls access to the Gulf and valuable nearby oil fields.

Abbawi said some Iraqi land was now submerged in water due to erosion and geographic change in the area. He said Iraq wanted to reach an agreement with its neighbor to begin clearing thousands of mines from Shatt al-Arab.


Well if phase two, getting the Iranians out of Iraq, was not in play yet, it is now.


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