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Iran: 'Occupying forces' must leave Iraq

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised the new Iraqi government and said Iran looks forward to the day when U.S. troops leave Iraq, according to an Iranian media report.

"A major portion of Iraq's problems will be solved when the occupying forces leave that country, and that is why we desire and hope that occupiers leave Iraq," Khamenei said, according to a report from Iran's semi-official news agency FARS.

Following talks with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday, Khamanei said Iran was happy that an independent and permanent government had been formed in Iraq.

"We hope that the day will come when the Iraqi nation reaches its rightful place (among nations) and, after it is free from foreigners, its human and natural resources could be used to serve the Iraqi people," he said.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran feels duty bound to provide practical assistant to the Iraqi government and nation."

Al-Maliki said Iraq's major problem is "the question of security," which he blamed on supporters of Saddam Hussein's former Baathist regime as well as Islamic extremists.

The Iraqi leader expressed hope that by implementing Tehran-Baghdad agreements reached in the Iranian capital, the two countries' relations will further expand.

Al-Maliki met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday, who described the talks as "very good." (Full story)

Iran and Iraq are linked in large part by common religion -- Shia Islam -- but their relationship is complicated.

While many Iranians and Iraqis -- officials as well as citizens -- believe the nations are kindred spirits, there have been tensions between them.

They fought a bloody war in the 1980s under Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who brought Iraq's minority Sunni Muslims to power.

The United States, the chief ally and backer of the new Iraqi government, has been a longtime adversary of Iran on many issues, including Iran's nuclear ambitions.

American and British officials have claimed that Iran is attempting to fan the flames of insecurity in Iraq, where the government is trying to promote national unity among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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