TEHRAN - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday at the start of a two-day visit to boost relations between their Muslim states. “If Tehran and Baghdad are strong, the region will have no place for the United States and the Zionist regime,” Ahmadinejad said, quoted by state news agency IRNA, in reference to Tehran’s arch-foe Israel. He said there was “no limit to the strengthening of political, economic and cultural ties” between them. Such moves would serve to “boost stability and security in the region,” chimed in Maliki, who also held talks with parliament speaker Ali Larijani.Maliki was also to see Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

It was Maliki’s first visit to Tehran since October 2010, when he was trying to secure regional backing for a second term as premier following inconclusive March parliamentary polls.

Iraq and Iran have similar positions on the crisis in Syria, where the regime of Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad has been carrying out a bloody crackdown on an uprising against his rule, in which thousands have died.

But there are some contentious issues between the two countries, including the diversion by Iran of rivers that flow into Iraq, as well as borders and oil.