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Iraq

US grants sanctions waiver for Iraq to import energy from Iran

The US envoy to Baghdad says Washington has exempted Baghdad from some of its unilateral anti-Iran sanctions, allowing Iraq to continue importing energy from Iran.

US charge d’affaires Joey Hood told reporters on Wednesday Baghdad can now buy energy from Iran, a report by Al-Alam news network said.

The waiver will allow Iraq to continue buying gas and electricity from Iran.

The administration of US President Donald Trump said in March it was extending a 90-day waiver for the second time to let Iraq continue energy imports from Iran.

The US envoy did not explain whether he was referring to the same waiver Washington gave Baghdad in March or he was declaring the issuance of new exemptions.

Gas imports from Iran generate as much as 45 percent of Iraq’s 14,000 megawatts of electricity consumed daily. Iran transmits another 1,000 megawatts directly, making itself an indispensable energy source for its Arab neighbor.

Iraq and Iran share a 1,400-kilometer-long border. For their run-of-the-mill maintenance, Iraqis depend on Iranian companies for many things from food to machinery, electricity, natural gas, fruits and vegetables.

The Trump administration is pressing Iraq to stop buying natural gas and electricity from Iran, but Baghdad is pushing back against the pressure, The New York Times reported in February.

In his Wednesday remarks, the US envoy also pointed to reports of Baghdad’s efforts to mediate between Tehran and Washington, and said he was unaware of such mediation.

“We do not know of the existence of Iraqi mediation” between the US and Iran, he said, adding that he welcomes the opportunity to consult with the Iraqi government.

“It is possible to communicate with Iran directly and the embassy’s objective is to sustain the stability of Iraq to be strong and stable and protect it from any tension in the region,” he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said Tuesday his country is set to send delegations to the US and Iran to help “halt tension” between the two sides amid growing concerns over a military conflict as Washington ratchets up its belligerent rhetoric against Tehran and builds up its military presence in the region.

“Iraq has high-level contacts (with both parties), and its vision is very close to that of the European Union, which seeks to settle the crisis in the region,” Abdul Mahdi said at a weekly press briefing in the capital Baghdad.

“US and Iranian officials have assured us that they do not want to go to war,” he pointed out.

Abdul Mahdi added, “Iraq is in the stage of transferring messages between Washington and Tehran. It tries to defuse crisis between the two sides. It is our responsibility to defend Iraq and its people, and ensure security in the face of the threat of war.”

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