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UK tells Iraq to end Iran energy reliance

Iraq and Iran have grown a closer alliance in recent years [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2019

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Baghdad must convert oil resources to become more self-sufficient, Alistair Burt has suggested, during a visit to Iraq that came amid a flurry of high-profile diplomacy visits.
Iraq's economic reliance on Iran must come to an end, the UK's foreign office minister for the Middle East said on Sunday, advising Baghdad to become more self-sufficient in energy.

Baghdad must convert oil resources for internal consumption, Alistair Burt suggested, during a visit to Iraq that came amid a flurry of high-profile diplomacy visits.

"To expect Iran to have no influence in Iraq is fanciful," Alistair Burt said in an interview with Reuters at the British embassy in Baghdad.

"What is important is that Iraq finds the opportunity to follow its own future in terms of foreign relations and that its economy is strong, and isn't reliant on Iran."

Despite its reduced pumping of oil, which falls in line with an OPEC agreement to reduce production to stabilise prices, Iraq's oil export capacity is nearly 5 million barrels per day

Washington hopes that in reducing its gas flaring to satisfy domestic energy needs, Baghdad would become less reliant on Iran's power imports.

"The sooner all its oil wealth can come on stream and can capture all the energy that is sometimes not used as effectively as possible... the better," he said.

Burt added that there were ideas for more power projects in Iraq, although fell short of elaborating, according to Reuters.

His visit followed US President Donald Trump's surprise announcement in December that the White House intends the swift withdrawal of American troops from Syria.

Washington and its allies in the region fear the the withdrawal could prompt Iran to further expand its influence in Iraq and Syria, where it has emboldened its ties in recent years. 

But despite the concerns, Burt rejected fears that a military escalation between the US and Iran in Iraq or Syria was imminent.

He did warn of "confrontation which might occur should there be a miscalculation".

The remarks came as tension continued to brew between Washington's chief regional ally Israel, and Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday Tel Aviv would not allow "Iranian aggression", after its military struck what it called Tehran's military in Syria in response to missile fire.

"Yesterday evening, the air force struck a strong blow against Iranian targets in Syria after Iran fired a missile from there toward Israel," Netanyahu said at an inauguration ceremony for a new airport in southern Israel.

"We do not allow such acts of aggression to pass by. We are acting against Iran and against the Syrian forces who are tools of Iranian aggression."

Netanyahu's comments come shortly after an Iranian officials announced he wants to "eliminate it (Israel) from the Earth" after Israeli jets struck a series of Iranian military targets in Syria early on Monday.

"The youth in the air force are fully ready and eager to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth," Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh reportedly said.

Iran has flown thousands of militia fighters into Syria to bolster Bashar al-Assad's regime.

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