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Hassan Rouhani to make first official trip to Iraq, Iran says

IRAQ-IRAN-DIPLOMACY
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to visit Iraq next month, marking the first public trip by Tehran’s top official.

Zarif, who is currently heading an economic delegation, arrived in Baghdad on Sunday evening, on a five-day trip to hold talks with top Iraqi and Kurdish officials.

“President Hassan Rouhani will visit Iraq on March 11,” the foreign minister said.

It follows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unannounced visit to Iraq last week in which he stressed that Iraq must stop relying on Iran for gas and electricity imports.

In December, the US State Department granted a 90-day waiver to Iraq to continue paying for electricity imports from Iran, despite re-imposing harsh sanctions on Tehran in November.

Washington has been working with Baghdad to end its dependence on Iranian natural gas and to increase its energy independence, according to a department spokesperson.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim said he discussed Washington’s restrictions during a two-hour meeting with Mr Zarif on Sunday.

"We discussed the unilateral economic measures taken by the US and are working with our neighbor (Iran) on them,"Hakim said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart.
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