Abadi hopes strength of US ties with Iraq will help resolve travel banBy [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] [ltr]9 hours ago [/ltr]
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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi talks to reporters in Baghdad on Tuesday. Photo: Rudaw Grab
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi government officials have discussed options regarding a response to the US travel ban on its citizens, the prime minister stated, noting that Iraqi has friends in Washington and many big American businesses have interests in Iraq.
“Frankly, we have discussed a number of options, a number of inputs on the ground,” Haider al-Abadi said in response to a question on whether Iraq will respond in kind if the US travel ban remains in force. Iraq has friends in the US government and is working with their American counterparts away from the media’s eye to try to resolve the issue, he said.
“You know that big American companies have great interests here in Iraq. There was a signature on the contract with GE which is among the major companies in the energy sector. And there is a big negotiation with ExxonMobil that has continued for two years... worth billions of dollars in the oil sector of Iraq. There are other big companies in water sector, agriculture and etc. These are all major projects.”
Last week Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity inked a billion dollar deal with General Electric (GE) for the construction of two power plants, along with technological upgrades and maintenance services, in the southern provinces of Dhi Qar and Muthannah, to be completed in 2018.
Abadi said he hoped that the US will change the decision to impose a temporary travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, which he described as an “insult” to Iraq and Iraqis.
"I hope the cooperation between Iraq and the United States is based upon the strategic agreement between the two countries. I hope there will be a change to that decision. Frankly, I say with regret, this decision is an insult to Iraq and Iraqis. Iraqis should be thanked for their sacrifices in fighting terrorism. The way the order was issued was not good, and I don't want to cause the same insult to the American people at the present time."
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Abadi also hailed the country’s oil production capacity, which, he said, has reached record levels.
“Despite all the pressures, despite a brutal war, despite the challenges faced by Iraq, Iraq has now reached its highest oil production level ever in its history, the highest ever. It has now passed the peak of the 1980s or the 1970s when Iraq set a record,” Abadi said, believing that both stable oil production and re-securing oil fields from ISIS have boosted production levels.
“The only thing that limits us now is the ceiling put in place by the OPEC agreement to increase the oil price. And thank God, the oil price has increased. We have now decreased oil production by a specific amount,” he said, referring to a deal among major oil producing nations to limit production in order to shore up falling oil prices.
Abadi added that the increase in oil prices have now compensated Iraq for its decreased oil production under the OPEC agreement.
Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest producer, pledged last year to reduce output by 210,000 barrels per day, or 4.5 percent of its total production.