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Maliki to visit Iran as Iraqi coalition talks heat up

Iraqi prime minister is likely to visit Iran tomorrow for high-level 'regional and international' talks.

BAGHDAD // The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, who is fighting to keep his job after an inconclusive general election last March, is to visit Iran soon, a close aide said yesterday.

Iran's Mehr news agency said Mr al Maliki's visit had been set for tomorrow and that he would hold high-level "regional and international" talks and "also discuss developments in Iraq".

The visit comes as Mr al Maliki is locked in a protracted battle for the premiership with a former prime minister, Ayad Allawi.

Mr al Maliki's Shiite-led State of Law bloc finished a narrow second behind Mr Allawi's Sunni-dominated Iraqiyya group, but neither came close to securing a parliamentary majority.

Drawn-out coalition talks since the election have seen both sides courting the third-placed Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious factions.

Moqtada al Sadr, whose radical movement controls 40 of the INA's 70 seats, has thrown his support behind Mr al Maliki but the incumbent still needs the support of another INA faction, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council of Ammar al Hakim, which controls 17 seats and is seen as close to Tehran.

Mr al Maliki is on a tour of Middle East capitals aimed at winning support for his premiership. He visited Syria on Wednesday and is to visit Jordan today.

* Agence France-Presse

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