MANAMA - Iranian President Mohammed Khatami held talks with Bahrain's King Hamad Friday after arriving in Manama on the first such visit by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Khatami told his Bahraini host he hoped post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would have "a government that represents the Iraqi people" and that the latter would "live in peace and security with their neighbors," the official BNA news agency said.
He also praised efforts to promote "political, economic and cultural development in Bahrain as part of reforms" launched by King Hamad since he came to power in 1999, BNA said.
Hamad's accession to power opened the way for an improvement of ties between Bahrain and Iran, which had often been strained during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. In the 1990s, Manama also accused predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran of fueling Shiite-led unrest in the Gulf state.
The Bahraini king visited Tehran last August and the two countries signed several cooperation accords and agreed to set up a joint committee co-chaired by their respective foreign ministers.
In 2001, the volume of trade between the two countries came to some 27 million dollars, 17 million dollars of which was Bahraini exports to Iran, according to official figures.
The two however remain at odds over the US military presence in the region, with Iran calling for an end to that presence and Bahrain, a close ally of Washington, hosting the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
Khatami arrived here from Yemen on the last stop of a six-day Arab tour that also took him to Lebanon and Syria.
In Sanaa, he and President Ali Abdullah Saleh discussed the situation in Iraq following the US-led ouster of Saddam on April 9 as well as the Middle East peace process.
A joint statement issued at the end of the visit demanded "the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq," voiced the two countries' commitment to Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and underlined "the need for the United Nations to play a major role in restoring peace and security" there.
The Iranian and Yemeni sides also signed economic and security cooperation accords during the visit.