(AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday defended his stance on US sanctions against Iran in the face of harsh criticism from Tehran and its allies in Baghdad.
"Some people want to put pressure on us to place the interests of gangs ahead of those of the Iraqi people," he told a news conference. "This is not possible."
Abadi has cancelled a visit to Iran, his press office said Sunday, after announcing last week that Iraq would reluctantly comply with renewed US sanctions against Tehran.
"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," the prime minister added.
His position has drawn fire from several groups close to Tehran, especially the Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Badr paramilitary movements.
On Sunday, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative in Baghdad also lashed out at Abadi. "It's a disloyal attitude towards the honest position of Iran and the blood of the martyrs this country has spelt 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.
Abadi stood firm on Monday, although Baghdad is in the midst of political jockeying to form a new government after the results of May's parliamentary elections were finalized last week following a recount.
"Our economic situation is also difficult and we sympathize with Iran," said Abadi, who was appointed prime minister in 2014 with Western backing and by consensus between the leading factions in Iraqi politics."But at the same time I will not make grand slogans that destroy my people and my country just to make certain people happy," he said.