U.S. Energy Secretary discussed Iran sanctions with Iraqi officials

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry attends a joint news conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Budapest, Hungary, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday he had discussed his country’s sanctions against Iran with Iraqi energy officials and signalled an intention to step up U.S. private sector investment in Iraq.

Perry spoke at a Baghdad hotel where he was attending a U.S. chamber of commerce event alongside Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban.

The United States has restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry as well as its banking and transport industry.

Baghdad, an ally of both Washington and Tehran, is seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas for its power stations.

Iraqi officials say they need more time to find an alternative source than a 45-day waiver granted to it by the United States.

“Sanctions were mentioned in meetings this morning,” Perry said without providing details.

He added that his attendance was sending a strong message of U.S. commitment to Iraq’s economy and energy sector and that he recognised the challenges faced by Iraq’s government when it comes to rebuilding oil infrastructure destroyed during the war against Islamic State militants.

“This is a different administration that will move with speed to develop an energy sector that best serves the citizens of Iraq,” Perry said of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s new government.

(Reporting by John Davison; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Louise Heavens)

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