BAGHDAD, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- President of Iraq's Kurdistan self- ruling region on Tuesday said that Iran has supplied weapons to Kurdish security forces to fight back extremist Islamic insurgents who were advancing toward the region in northern Iraq.
"We have asked for weapons and military supplies from states worldwide, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first to assist us with weapons and equipment," Massoud Barzani said at a joint press conference with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad- Javad Zarif in the city of Arbil, capital of Kurdistan.
For his part, Zarif said that Iran supports a unified and stable Iraq, stressing that the Islamic State militant group "is a menace to everyone in the region. It is a menace to the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, even to those who cooperated with them."
Earlier in the day, the Iranian foreign minister arrived in the Kurdistan region and held talks with Barzani, as part of his official visit to the country on Sunday, during which he met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad before visiting the senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy Shiite city of Najaf.
Zarif on Sunday denied reports alleging that the Islamic republic sent troops to Iraq to fight insurgents from the Islamic State militants, but he acknowledged that military assistance has been offered to the Iraqi security forces.
"We are on the side of our Iraqi brothers from all sects, Kurdish, Sunnis and Shiite who are fighting terrorism, but we do not believe that they need the presence of Iranian soldiers in order to do this task," Zarif said at a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Earlier this month, the Islamic State stormed towns in northern Iraq, threatening and executing numerous members of Iraq's religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis. The extremist militants also managed to push back the Kurdish Peshmerga forces toward Arbil itself, sparking a campaign of international efforts to provide weapons and ammunition to the Kurdish forces as well as U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq.
Iraq and Iran fought a bloody eight-year war in 1980s, resulting in the loss of one million lives.
However, relations between the Shiite Muslim country of Iran and the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq were strengthened considerably after Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.