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Rouhani To Pay First Official Visit To Iraq

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on November 17, 2018, shows Iran's President Hassan Rouhani next to Iraq's President Barham Salih (R) during a welcome ceremony in Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will pay an official visit to Iraq, starting March 10 “to strengthen relations while Iran is under U.S. sanction”, Tasnim news agency reports.

This is the first official visit of Rouhani to Iraq, which has been organized by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, his deputy Abbas Araqchi and head of Iran’s Central Bank Abdolnaser Hemmati, according to Tasnim.

Last November, Iraqi president Barham Saleh visited Iran and in January, Zarif paid an extended visit to Iraq.

Under the pressure of U.S. sanctions Iran is under pressure not to lose international trade and Iraq is its second biggest trading partner. On January 1, the chairman of Iranian parliament’s national security commission warned that the trade balance with Iraq was turning negative.

The U.S. has given a waiver to Iraq to be able to import Iranian fossil fuels but its non-oil imports from Iran have substantially declined.

Iran wields a lot of influence in Iraq having extensive relations with a multitude of Iraqi political and militia groups and the country’s elite.