IRAQI OIL MINISTER Thamer Ghadhban (right) speaks during a press conference in Baghdad yesterday, as US Energy Secretary Rick Perry looks on..
(photo credit: HADI MIZBAN/REUTERS)
BAGHDAD – US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday that he discussed sanctions against Iran with Iraqi energy officials, as Washington pressures Baghdad to stop importing Iranian gas that is crucial for its power grid.
“Sanctions were mentioned, they’re a reality, they’re there,” Perry told reporters in Baghdad after meeting Iraq’s oil and electricity ministers, without providing further details of the discussion.
Washington gave Iraq a 45-day waiver over imports of Iranian gas when it reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil sector on November 5. Iraqi officials have said they need around two years to wean themselves off Iranian gas imports and find an alternative source.
“This [Iraqi] administration recognizes... the imperative to move with some expedition to send a message to the United States... that this is an administration that is going to move with speed to develop infrastructure, especially in the energy sector that best serves the citizens of Iraq,” Perry said.
Iraq reached a deal with US energy giant General Electric and German rival Siemens to install liquefied natural gas-operated mobile power units at some small southern oil fields, Iraq’s state newspaper reported last month.
The Financial Times reported in October that the US government had intervened in favor of GE for a contract sought by both companies to supply 11 gigawatts of power generation equipment, reportedly worth around $15 billion.
Perry spoke at a conference organized by the US Chamber of Commerce THAT Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban also attended. “The most important [thing] is our presence and our conversations... we talked about the challenges but we also talked about some very positive opportunities,” Perry said.
Neither minister gave details of the conversations.
Washington is seeking to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East, including Iraq, where Tehran has dominated politics and trade.
Iraq’s efforts to reduce gas flaring could reduce its reliance on Iranian gas.
The US sanctions target Iranian oil as well as its banking and transportation industry.
Perry said the United States recognized the challenges faced by Iraq’s government in rebuilding oil infrastructure destroyed during the war against Islamic State.
Perry later met Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and discussed energy and the economy, the premier’s office said in a statement. It said Perry was in Baghdad with a delegation of more than 50 business people.