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Iran Pledges Security Assistance to Longtime Rival Iraq

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to provide Iraq with whatever security is necessary to prevent its struggling neighbor from descending into civil war. Ahmadinejad made the offer during a visit Monday from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Iraq and Iran talk. We start with some background from NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels.

  • SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Today's meeting in Tehran between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran marked a new chapter between the countries. The leaders planned to discuss worsening security conditions in Iraq.

    MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, President of Iran (through translator): Based on our brotherly relationship with Iraq, we will stay beside the Iraqi nation in all fields. The present conditions that the enemies have imposed today on the Iraqi nation hurts every Iranian, every Muslim, and all the nations of the region.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    The two countries share a nearly 1,000-mile-long border and a history of rivalry and conflict. In 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, starting an eight-year war that left hundreds of thousands of dead, with Iran suffering the greatest losses. The war ended in a standoff.

    Local residents in Tehran were hopeful today's meeting would help stabilize Iraq.

  • AHMED BARATI, University Student (through translator):

    Definitely, this visit could be a successful one for a crisis-stricken country like Iraq. Iran has gained a lot of experience within the last years, and Iraqis can benefit from these experiences a lot.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Talabani's trip to Tehran was delayed when a curfew was imposed in Baghdad after the worst fighting yet between Shia and Sunnis. Hundreds were killed. The Tehran meeting coincides with an uptick in diplomatic efforts to address the chaos that grips Iraq.

    Today, the New York Times quoted a draft report from the Iraq Study Group recommending a U.S. overture to Iran and Syria. And yesterday, King Abdullah of Jordan called for international action to prevent wider regional unrest, not only in Iraq, but in Lebanon and between Palestinians and Israelis.

  • KING ABDULLAH II, Jordan:

    And we could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands. And therefore, it is time that we really take a strong step forward as part of the international community and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis that I fear and I see could possibly happen in 2007.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    U.S. officials have been busy in the region, too. Vice President Cheney was in Saudi Arabia this weekend, meeting with that country's monarch and top officials of that Sunni kingdom.

    And today, President Bush embarked on a trip that will take him eventually to Jordan for talks with Iraqi Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.