Rouhani sees Iran, Iraq expanding trade despite US sanctions
(Adds Iraqi president meets Ayatollah Khamenei)
DUBAI, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Iran and Iraq could raise their
annual bilateral trade to $20 billion from the current $12
billion, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, despite
concerns over the impact of renewed U.S. sanctions.
Rouhani's remarks, after a meeting with visiting Iraqi
President Barham Salih, came two weeks after the United States
restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry as well as its
banking and transportation sectors.
"... through bilateral efforts, we can raise this figure
(for bilateral trade) to $20 billion in the near future,"
Rouhani said in comments broadcast live on state television.
"We held talks on trade in electricity, gas, petroleum
products and activities ... in the field of oil exploration and
extraction," Rouhani said.
Baghdad is seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import
Iranian gas for its power stations. Iraqi officials say they
need more time to find an alternative source than a 45-day
waiver granted to it by the United States.
"It will be important to create free trade zones at our
shared border and to connect the two countries' railways," Salih
"We will not forget your support for the Iraqi people in the
fight against (Iraqi dictator) Saddam (Hussein). Neither do we
forget Iran's stand in the recent fight against terrorism,"
added Salih, an Iraqi Kurd.
Salih later met Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei who called for maintaining unity among ethnic and
religious groups in Iraq and resisting foreign interference.
"The only way to counter plots (by Iraq's enemies) is by
strengthening the unity of all Iraqi groups, including Kurds,
Arabs, Shi'ite and Sunnis," Ayatollah Khamenei said, according
to his website.
"Some governments in the region and outside of it hold a
deep grudge against Islam ... and Iraq, and interfere in Iraq's
internal affairs and they must be strongly resisted," he said.
Iran accuses the United States and its regional rival Saudi
Arabia of exploiting divisions among Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
Washington and Riyadh denounce Iran as fuelling conflicts in
countries including Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
"We seek to boost cooperation (with Iran) at all levels ...
in order to serve the interests of both countries," the website
quoted Salih as saying.
Iran wields wide influence in Iraq, its smaller neighbour,
where its Revolutionary Guards played a key role in training and
arming the mainly Shi’ite militias that helped defeat Islamic
Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran, including
food, agricultural products, home appliances, air conditioners
and car parts. Iranian goods imports to Iraq were worth about $6
billion in the year ending March 2018, or about 15 percent of
Iraq’s total imports for 2017.
Iraqi officials told Reuters last week that Iraq had agreed
to sell foodstuffs in return for Iranian gas and energy
supplies. Iranian trade officials denied that any
food-for-gas scheme could be set up as Iran was a net exporter
of food to Iraq.
"We have exported more than $6 billion to Iraq in the past
seven months and we could import goods for that amount but not
food items," Yahya Al-e Eshaq, head of the Iran-Iraq chamber of
commerce, was quoted as saying by the ILNA news agency.
A spokesman for an association of Iranian gas and
petrochemicals exporters said Iraq wanted to pay for the gas
imports in its dinar currency, the semi-official ISNA news
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom
Editing by Gareth Jones and Robin Pomeroy)
First Published: 2018-11-17 11:05:56
Updated 2018-11-17 18:02:12
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