Published: Wed, March 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Iran President Rouhani in Baghdad to 'expand ties with Iraq'

Iran President Rouhani in Baghdad to 'expand ties with Iraq'

Rouhani then visited the shrine of Imam Kadhim, the seventh of 12 clerics revered by Shiites worldwide. He was then greeted by his Iraqi counterpart, Barham Saleh, at the presidential palace.

President Rouhani said that Pakistan and Iran are neighbours and brotherly countries linked through centuries of closed historic cultural and people to people linkages.

For his part, Salih said Baghdad's central location made it crucial to resolving regional issues.

What the campaign's main supporters have seemingly failed to account for in their dealings is the unshakable bond that the Iranian nation has developed with its neighbors, with whom it shares thousands of years of history. He plans on meeting with other politicians and Shiite leaders during his visit.

They fought a long war from 1980 to 1988, but Tehran's influence expanded after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said Rouhani's remarks came in a telephone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said he would soon have "good news" for Iran, according to the agency.

"Iran wants to build upon the opportunity of sanctions waivers, and by consolidating the existing level of economic ties with Iraq and enhancing the level of interdependency, makes it even harder for the USA to convince Iraq to change its course regarding the Islamic Republic", he added.

"We are very much interested in expanding our ties with Iraq, particular our transport co-operation", Mr Rouhani said later.

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However, Iraq has faced pressure from the USA to stop doing business with Iran.

Iraq was given limited waivers to continue buying electricity and natural gas to generate it from Iran, with Washington calling on it to partner with USA companies to become energy independent.

This time, Rouhani, who is on a second four-year-term, is particularly vulnerable because of the economic crisis assailing the Iranian rial, which has hurt ordinary Iranians and emboldened critics to openly call for the president's ouster.

The visit intends to send a strong signal to the United States that its policy of "maximum pressure" is not working, as Iran seeks to expand regional economic ties and display its political and military influence in Iraq.

Iran and Iraq enjoy "strategic" relations that can not be weakened by any country, Zarif said in Baghdad Sunday, noting that the two countries' youths fought side by side against Daesh.

Iran also sees Iraq as a possible route to bypass USA sanctions Trump re-imposed past year after pulling out of 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The bulk of the trade balance is tilted towards Iran with gas and energy exports. Tehran hopes to increase the roughly $13 billion volume in trade between the two neighboring countries to $20 billion.

Rouhani is also set to visit the holy city of Najaf and meet with the great Shia Marja' Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Salih and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the relations between the two countries.

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