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Iraq PM to visit Iran, Turkey as US sanctions bite

FILE: In this picture released by the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, speaks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Haider al-Abadi is in
(Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is to visit top trading partners Turkey and Iran next week, an official said Saturday, days after Washington slapped new sanctions on Tehran and piled economic pressure on Ankara.

Abadi "will head to Turkey on Tuesday and Iran on Wednesday to discuss economic affairs with the two countries," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Iraq is the second-largest importer of Iranian non-hydrocarbon products, buying some $6 billion (5 billion euros) worth of goods from its eastern neighbor in 2017.

It also buys in Iranian-generated electricity in efforts to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks. 

Abadi on Tuesday said Iraq would reluctantly comply with sanctions against Tehran which took effect the same day.

US President Trump's decision to reimpose sanctions against Iran has caused great turmoil, effectively giving countries trading with the Islamic Republic two options; either comply with the sanctions or seize doing business with the US. 

"Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States," Trump tweeted. "The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November, they ratchet up to yet another level."

MANDEL NGAN (AFP)

"We don't support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them," Abadi said. 

Baghdad has become an ally to Washington after the US invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein, thus paving the way to power for Iraq's large Shiite population.

Only later did the Baghdad become a strategic partner in the war that saw Iraq declare "victory" over Islamic State jihadists in late 2017.

Baghdad also has strong ties to Tehran, a Shiite powerhouse that is heavily involved in Iraq's political affairs. 

Abadi's visit to Ankara is also overshadowed by a bitter row between NATO allies Turkey and the US.

Trump said Friday he was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey as part of an ongoing row over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson and other issues.

The row has caused the Turkish lira to crash, dropping 16 percent against the dollar on Friday.

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