Iraq to send delegations to US and Iran to calm tensions: PM

Baghdad (AFP) –


Iraq is planning to send urgent delegations to the United States and Iran, its prime minister said Tuesday, as Baghdad seeks to rein in soaring tensions between its top allies.

Baghdad "will very soon send delegations to Tehran and Washington to push for calm", Adel Abdel Mahdi told journalists in the Iraqi capital.

The United States and Iran have exchanged bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks, with the US deploying a naval strike group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over unspecified Iranian "threats".

The bitter standoff has raised fears of the consequences for Iraq, which has sought to balance its ties between the bitter enemies.

On Sunday, a Katyusha rocket was fired into Baghdad's Green Zone housing government offices and embassies including the US mission, days after Washington evacuated staff from Iraq, citing Iranian threats.

Abdel Mahdi stressed the need to "avoid giving other parties the space to inflame the situation".

"We will not allow Iraq to be a war zone or a launchpad for a war against any state," he said.

Calming the situation would "serve both the interests of Iraq and its people and those of the region in general," he added.

The premier said Iraq "does not have the option of distancing itself" from US-Iranian tensions, and said Baghdad was working with European and Arab states to calm the situation.

Another Iraqi official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that Baghdad would be a suitable place for US-Iranian talks.

"The United States considers Iraq the only country able to bring the two countries together for negotiations," he said.