Iraq to Exchange Food for Iranian Gas, Seeks U.S. Approval – Govt Officials

RARE HARVEST: Qaraqosh farmer Tawfiq Abosh succeeded in producing a crop this year. He credits the irrigation system he built himself. REUTERS/Raya Jalabi

BAGHDAD, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Iraq has agreed with Iran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian gas and energy supplies, two Iraqi government officials said on Wednesday.

Baghdad is now seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas which is used in its power stations, and needs more time to find an alternative source, they said. The sources are a senior government official and a member of Iraq’s ministerial energy committee.

“The American deadline of 45 days to stop importing Iranian gas is not enough at all for Iraq to find an alternative source,” the first official said.

“Stopping Iranian gas after the deadline will create a real power crisis. We need more time … the Americans are completely aware of how desperately we need Iranian gas.”

Washington granted Iraq a waiver to be able to import Iranian gas and energy supplies as well as food items when U.S. sanctions were restored against Iran’s oil sector last week.

But the United States has said the exemption will last only 45 days.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed its power stations.

The second official said Iraq would will submit a request to the United States to allow it to import beyond the 45-day deadline.

In exchange for the gas Iraq is to “pay food and humanitarian items for Iran … Iran accepted this proposal,” the official said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed Writing by John Davison; Editing by Toby Chopra)