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Rouhani sees Iran, Iraq expands trade despite US sanctions

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran and Iraq could raise their annual bilateral trade to $ 20 billion from the current $…

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran and Iraq could raise their annual bilateral trade to $ 20 billion from the current $ 12 billion level, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, among concerns in Tehran about the economic consequences of renewed US sanctions .

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets Iraqi President Barham Salih in Tehran in Iran on November 1

7, 2018. Official President’s Website / Issue via REUTERS

Rouhani’s comments, made after a meeting of visiting President Barham Salih, came in two weeks after the US restored sanctions targeting Iran’s key oil industry and its banking and transport sectors.

“… through bilateral efforts, we can raise this figure (for bilateral trade) to $ 20 billion in the near future,” said Rouhani in comments broadcast live on Iranian state television.

“We held talks about trade in electricity, gas, petroleum products and activities … in oil exploration and extraction,” said Rouhani.

Iraqi officials told Reuters last week that Iraq had agreed to trade Iraqi food as opposed to Iranian gas and energy supplies.

Baghdad is seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas into its power plants. Iraqi officials say they need more time to find an alternative source than a 45-day exemption granted to it by the United States.

“It will be important to create free trade zones at our common border and to connect the two countries’ railways,” said Salih.

“We will not forget your support for the Iraqi people in the fight against (Iraqi dictator) Saddam (Hussein). We also do not forget Iran’s position in the latest fight against terrorism,” added Salih, an Iraqi courier.

Iran has a major influence in Iraq, its lesser Arab neighbor, where its revolutionary guards played a key role in training and waking up primarily the Shiite militia who helped defeat the Islamic state.

Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran, including food, agricultural products, household appliances, air conditioners and spare parts. The item of goods in Iranian imports into Iraq was worth about $ 6 billion during the 12 months ending March 2018, or about 15 percent of Iraq’s total imports for 2017.

Energy Contract also contributes to the total volume of bilateral trade.

The Iraqi central bank officials said in August that their country’s economy was closely linked to non-Arab Iran involved in several proxies with Saudi Arabia in the region.

Reporting of Dubai Newsroom; Editing Andrew Heavens and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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