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Iraq PM cancels visit to sanctions-hit Iran

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Iraq will reluctantly comply with US sanctions against its ally Iran
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Iraq will reluctantly comply with US sanctions against its ally Iran Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Iraq will reluctantly comply with US sanctions against its ally Iran AFP/File
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Baghdad (AFP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has cancelled a visit to Iran, his press office said Sunday, as the premier came under strong Iranian criticism over his stand on renewed US sanctions against Tehran.

Abadi will still go ahead with a planned visit to Turkey on Tuesday but has scrapped the Iran leg of the trip "because of his busy schedule", his office said.

An Iraqi official had said Saturday that Abadi would visit both neighbouring Turkey and Iran to discuss economic issues.

According to Iraqi political sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, Iran initially agreed to the visit but changed its mind because it was unhappy about Abadi's remarks.

The premier said last Tuesday that Iraq -- which relies on neighbouring Iran as a source of cheap imports -- would reluctantly comply with US sanctions against Tehran that took effect the same day.

"We don't support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them," said Abadi, whose country is an ally of both Tehran and Washington. "In general, sanctions are unjust."

On Sunday, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative in Baghdad lashed out at Abadi as the Tehran visit was called off.

"These irresponsible remarks have already been condemned by many people. It's a disloyal attitude towards the honest position of Iran and the blood of the martyrs this country has spilt to defend the land of Iraq" against jihadists, said Moujtaba al-Hussein.

"We are saddened by this position which shows he has been defeated psychologically in the face of the Americans," he said.

The US sanctions were reimposed after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

In Tehran, the foreign ministry was more guarded about a possible visit by Abadi.

A ministry spokesman said he had "so far not received any official news or information whatsoever about this trip", the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

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