Tehran ‘cancels’ visit by Iraq’s PM after remarks on United States sanctions

Al-Abadi is heading a fragile caretaker government until a new one can be formed

"I did not say we abide by the sanctions, I said we abide by not using dollars in transactions".

Last week, al-Abadi came in for criticism - both by Iranian officials and Iraqi Shia political blocs - after announcing his intention to implement all of Washington's sanctions on Tehran. "We will not interact with them or support them but we will abide by them".

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.

Last week, Iraq's PM indicated his country does not agree with U.S. sanctions against Iran but will abide by them to protect its own interests.

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

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Shiite parties and factions close to Iran have also rejected the PM's position. "In general, sanctions are unjust".

"We honestly have not made any decision regarding this issue until now", added al-Abadi, who is heading a fragile caretaker government until a new one can be formed following Iraq's parliamentary election in May.

"Iran's strategic objective in Iraq doesn't change, they want an Iraqi government that is mindful of the fact that they have to walk a tight rope in balancing multiple factions, the Kurds, the Sunnis".

Iraq is a key market for Iranian products, and the two countries enjoyed $12bn trade volume between April 2017 and March 2018 in areas of oil, gas, religious tourism, and engineering services.

The United States reintroduced earlier this month tough economic sanctions against Iran, which were lifted after the landmark nuclear agreement reached in 2015 with major powers.

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