Iraqi PM discusses U.S. withdrawal from Syria with Pompeo

CAIRO (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi that the U.S. is still committed to fighting Islamic State in Iraq and other areas despite its planned troop withdrawal from Syria, Abdul Mahdi’s office said on Saturday.

President Donald Trump has begun what will be a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, declaring on Wednesday they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State and were no longer needed. The plan has drawn criticism from allies such as Britain and France who say the militants are not fully beaten.

“Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a phone call from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who explained the details of the upcoming withdrawal from Syria and affirmed the United State’s is still committed to fight Islamic State and terrorism in Iraq and other areas,” Abdul Mahdi’s office said in a statement.

Abdul Mahdi and Pompeo also discussed Washington’s decision to extend for 90 days a waiver granted to Iraq from sanctions against Iran that would allow Baghdad to keep importing Iranian gas that is critical for Iraqi power production.

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The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran’s energy exports in November, citing its nuclear program and meddling in the Middle East, but has granted waivers to several buyers to meet consumer energy needs.

Washington gave Iraq a 45-day waiver for imports of gas from Iran when it reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil sector on Nov. 5. Iraqi officials have said they need around two years to find an alternative source.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed its power stations, importing roughly 1.5 billion standard cubic feet per day via pipelines in the south and east.

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