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    Ahmadinejad to arrive in Baghdad today

    BAGHDAD (AP): Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to arrive in Baghdad Sunday for the first-ever visit by an Iranian leader to Iraq.

    Once considered Iraq's archenemy, Iran is now cozy with Baghdad's Shia-led government and eager to show off Tehran's rising influence as debate rages in the U.S. over how quickly to leave.

    During the two-day visit, Ahmadinejad is scheduled to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki _ both of whom have made official visits to Iran since taking office.

    Ahmadinejad sought to reassure Iraqis ahead of the trip by disputing U.S. accusations that Iran is meddling in Iraqi affairs and fueling violence among Shia militias.

    ``Iran has no need to intervene in Iraq. It is friendly to all groups in Iraq. Isn't it ridiculous that those who have deployed 160,000 troops in Iraq accuse us of intervening there?'' the Iranian state-run news agency, IRNA, quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

    Ahmadinejad was to arrive Sunday morning at Baghdad's airport and head to Talabani's headquarters, located right across the Tigris River from the mammoth new U.S. Embassy in the fortified Green Zone.

    The trip symbolically serves several purposes for Iran. Ahmadinejad wants to highlight Shia-dominated Iran's influence but at the same time show that Iran is not a bully, analysts say.


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