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Thu 21 Feb 2008 11:56 AM

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Iran, Iraq revive partial border deal

Gulf states agree to reactivate some elements of controversial 1975 border agreement.

Iran and Iraq have agreed to reactivate some elements of a 1975 border agreement which was the centre of a row in December when the Iraqi president said the treaty was void, a statement he later retracted.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani appeared to reopen an old border row in December when he said the 32-year-old Algiers treaty had been "voided by the current government", a statement he then reversed but said Iraq wanted to negotiate changes.

An Iraqi team arrived in Tehran this week to discuss the agreement which covers the border along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, known as Arvand Rud in Iran, at the head of the Gulf.

The dispute over the waterway was a factor leading to the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, in which around 1 million people died.

"The deputy foreign ministers of Iran and Iraq agreed on continuing expert talks about details over using the Arvand Rud and also on problems related to their joint borders," Iran's Resalat newspaper reported.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Reza Baqeri held talks with Iraqi counterpart Mohammed al-Hajj Humoud to discuss establishing "security at joint borders and removing existing problems", Resalat reported, without giving details.

They also agreed to reactivate "technical mechanisms" mentioned in the 1975 treaty and additional protocols, the daily said. The report did not give details about those mechanisms.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Baqeri as saying the 1975 treaty was not negotiable, but it said he had agreed with his Iraqi counterpart on the importance of delineating the border and constructing border signs destroyed during the war.

The Iraqi official said their agreement during the talks in Tehran showed the two countries' desire for good neighbourly relations, IRNA said, adding work on restoring river conditions would start once a final deal was reached.

The border talks come ahead of a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq in March, the first official trip to Iraq by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Iranian revolution that overthrew the US-backed Shah.

Analysts say Iran wants to show its support for the government of Shi'ite Muslim Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Shi'ites are the majority religious group in Iran and increase Tehran's influence in Iraq.

Iran has called on US troops to quit Iraq and to hand over more powers to Iraqis.

An Iranian analyst said Ahmadinejad would seek to show the Iraqi government - at least publicly - did not view Tehran as an interfering neighbour, a charge Washington often makes. (Reuters)

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