Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday urged Tehran to help rebuild his war-torn country during a visit to Iran that came as his rival accused the Islamic republic of meddling in Iraqi affairs.
Maliki's one-day stopover in Iran is part of a regional tour aimed at drumming up support for his bid to stay in power after an inconclusive March 7 general election.
Local media said the Iraqi premier held a series of meetings in Tehran with top Iranian officials, including with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In his talks with Khamenei, Maliki described Iraq's relations with its eastern neighbour as "strategic" and urged Tehran to help rebuild his country, which has been devastated by the 1980-88 war with Iran, decades of autocratic rule by Saddam Hussein and the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the dictator.
"We ask Iran and our neighbours to support our reconstruction and to boost economic and commercial cooperation which will help improve stability in our region," Maliki said, according to a statement issued by his office in Baghdad.
"The strategic relations between Iraq and Iran must continue and the cooperation between Arab and Islamic countries will serve the stability and prosperity of the inhabitants," the statement quoted him as saying.
Khamenei, for his part, blamed Iraq's problems on the presence of US troops in the war-torn country.
"The Iraqi nation is vigilant and aggressors cannot dominate this country again. May God get rid of America in Iraq so that its people's problems are solved," Khamenei told Maliki, according to a statement by Khamenei's office.
It said that Khamenei had stressed the need for government formation in Baghdad and the restoration of stability across the country.
"The construction and well-being of Iraq will materialise only when these two issues are taken care of," Khamenei said, adding that despite the current relative stability "there was still insecurity in Iraq."
"Some of this insecurity comes from what has been imposed by some powers as they gain politically from such insecurity," Iran's spiritual guide and commander-in-chief told Maliki.
Iranian state news agency IRNA said Maliki was also Monday to pay a visit to the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran.
Maliki had been in Jordan on Sunday as part of his tour of Middle East capitals aimed at garnering support as he fights to keep his job after the March election.
His Shiite-led State of Law bloc finished a narrow second behind Allawi's mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance but neither came close to securing a parliamentary majority in the vote.
Allawi, who has looked to support from Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia which he visited earlier this month, at the weekend renewed accusations that Iran is meddling in the drawn-out coalition talks in Baghdad.
"We know that unfortunately Iran is trying to wreak havoc on the region, and trying to destabilise the region by destabilising Iraq, and destabilising Lebanon and destabilising the Palestinian issue," Allawi told CNN on Sunday.
"And this is where unfortunately Iraq and the rest of the greater Mideast is falling victim to these terrorists who are definitely Iran-financed and supported by various governments in the region."
Allawi's Iraqiya bloc controls 91 of the 325 seats in the Iraqi parliament, two more than Maliki's State of Law alliance.
Tehran's envoy to Baghdad, Hassan Danaeifar, dismissed Allawi's accusations.
"These comments are not true. He makes such remarks on the threshold of trips (of Maliki) to other nations, and they are baseless," he was quoted as saying by Iran's Fars news agency.
Maliki visited Iran ally Syria last Wednesday and plans to tour several Gulf Arab states, where support for his rival has been strong, a close aide told AFP on Saturday.