Iraq Sending Team to U.S. to Seek Deal on Transactions with Iran

By Ahmed Aboulenein

BAGHDAD, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Iraq will send a delegation to the United States seeking an agreement on financial transactions with Iran following Washington’s reimposition of sanctions on Tehran, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday.

His statement was the first by an Iraqi official since Reuters reported last week Baghdad was going to ask Washington for exemptions from some of the sanctions because Iraq’s economy is closely linked with neighbouring Iran.

“We have requests for the American side, we have presented them and a delegation will go to negotiate within that framework,” Abadi told a weekly news conference.

“We have presented a clear vision of what Iraq really needs. This includes Iranian (natural) gas, which is very important, as well as other trade and the electricity sector.”

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in May from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, calling it flawed, and reimposed trade sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

[aesop_image img=”” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

The Trump administration has warned of consequences for countries including European allies that co-signed the nuclear accord, that do not respect the new sanctions. Baghdad is in a difficult position – its two biggest allies are the United States and Iran, themselves arch-adversaries.

“We have had good promises initially but as you know the American situation is complicated; you do not deal with one person, there are several institutions,” Abadi said.

He called the sanctions “unilateral” and “oppressive”, adding that Iraq would not be “part of a blockade” due to its own painful experience with international sanctions during the era of Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi government and central bank officials said the delegation would travel to Washington to ask for exemptions in applying the sanctions. They did not say when that trip would take place.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Mark Heinrich)