Iraq needs three years on Iran power: parliament speaker

As Iraq is negotiating a third santions waiver from the US to keep importing Iranian energy, the country’s Parliament speaker is trying to make the message across that Washington grant the exemption.

31 March 2019
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As Iraq is negotiating a third santions waiver from the US to keep importing Iranian energy, the country’s Parliament speaker is trying to make the message across that Washington grant the exemption.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, speaking in Washington at the US Institute of Peace, (Photo: AFP)

Iraq's parliament speaker voiced hope Friday that the United States will keep waiving sanctions on energy purchases from Iran, saying his country will need to import electricity from its neighbor for three years, AFP reports. 

President Donald Trump's administration has sought to cut off all exports from Iran but has twice granted three-month exemptions to Iraq, mindful of chronic blackouts that have reignited unrest in the war-torn country.

"Hopefully this waiver will be extended until Iraq can stand on its feet economically," Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said at the US Institute of Peace on a visit to Washington, where he met leaders including Vice President Mike Pence.
Halbusi, a member of the Sunni minority, said Iraq imported 30 percent of its power despite its plentiful oil reserves and needed about three years to develop its own capacity.

"After these three years, maybe we can see Iraq as economically independent and we won't need to import power or electricity from a foreign country. Maybe we can address this issue after three years," he said.

Speaking afterwards to reporters, Halbusi warned the United States of the negative effect of "any hasty, uncalculated step to adopt policies and procedures against countries in this region."

Trump last year exited an international agreement on curbing Iran's nuclear program and reimposed punishing sanctions. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meeting Thursday with Halbusi, said he supported an Iraq "open to the region and the world" and pledged US help for the country's development, according to a State Department statement that did not mention Iran.

Earlier, Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian had said Tehran has plans to reconstruct Iraq’s heavily-damaged electric power industry during the next three years.

“ٌWe are planning to play the principle role in reconstructing Iraq’s electric power industry in a three-year plan,” Ardakanian was cited as saying by the Iranian Tasnim News Agency.

He added that several Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were signed during a recent visit to Iran by Iraqi Electricity Minister Luay al-Khateeb. The two officials also extended for another year a contract under which Iraq buys electricity from Iran.

Iraqi Electricity Minister, Luay al-Khateeb (left) shakes hands with Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian following renewing Iran-Iraq power agreement in Tehran (Photo: IRNA, Amin Jalali)  

Ardakanian stressed that Iran is the only and best source of electric power for neighbouring countries with which it shares a physical border, saying “there isn’t a better alternative for these countries that import Iranian electricity.”  

The Iranian minister also reiterated that Baghdad has cleared over five billion dollars of its debts for importing Iranian electrical power. “We have exported more than six billion dollars worth of electricity to Iraq but 5 billions of which have been cleared,” he noted.

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