Manuchehr Mottaki (file photo) (epa)
May 27, 2006 -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki today visited the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala in Iraq.
Mottaki is expected to continue on to Najaf, home to the Imam Ali shrine, and to hold talks there with Iraq's leading Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The visit underlines ties between Iran and Iraqi Shi'ites. It has also raised concerns among Iraqi Sunnis and the United States that Iran is trying to gain influence in Iraq.
Mottaki met with Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad on May 26. Mottaki said that Iran has ruled out direct talks with U.S. officials for now about the situation in Iraq.
Mottaki's visit to Iraq is the first by a top Iranian official since Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's election victory in June 2005.