Iraq PM to make first official Iran visit on Saturday

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Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi will travel to Iran on Saturday, a member of his office said, in his first official visit to the country rivaling Washington for influence over Baghdad.

The US reimposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s energy and finance sectors last year but has granted Baghdad several exemptions to keep temporarily importing Iranian gas and electricity, crucial to Iraq’s faltering power sector.

Abdel Mahdi, 77, has repeatedly said Iraq wants good ties with both the US and Iran.

The prime minister would spend two days in the Islamic republic, a member of his office told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

A number of top officials have visited the Iraqi capital in recent months, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in March, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January, and a host of Arab leaders.

During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Abdel Mahdi said he was planning trips to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States, without specifying dates.

The premier has rarely traveled since coming to power in October, making his first trip abroad in late March to Egypt.

There, he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss economic and security cooperation among the three countries.

Last month, Iraq’s speaker of parliament Mohammed al-Halbusi traveled to the US, where he said his country would need to rely on Iranian gas and electricity for another three years.

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