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(Reuters) – Iraq’s capital Baghdad and other cities are at risk of serious power shortages after Iran slashed gas exports, the electricity ministry said on Sunday, potentially placing further pressure on the government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Iran has reduced gas exports to Iraq to five million cubic metres from 50 million cubic metres two weeks ago citing unpaid bills, a ministry spokesman said.
It also officially informed Iraq’s electricity ministry on Sunday that it plans to cut shipments further to three million cubic metres, the spokesman said.
Iraq has lost around 6,550 megawatts of electricity, spokesman Ahmed Moussa said.
Iraq’s daily consumption during peak hours of winter reaches around 19,000 megawatts while the country generates around 11,000 megawatts, replying on imports to fill the gap, he said.
Iran’s Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian is scheduled to visit Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss the unpaid bills with his Iraqi counterpart, Moussa said.
“We strongly encourage Iraq’s finance ministry to resolve the unpaid bills with Iran to avoid critical shortages of power supplies in Baghdad and other cities,” Moussa said.
Washington has repeatedly extended by 90 or 120 days a sanctions exemption to allow Baghdad to import Iranian energy, but in November it granted only a 45-day extension.
The United States has insisted that oil-rich Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, move towards self-sufficiency as a condition for its exemption for importing Iranian energy, yet Baghdad has struggled to do so, in part due to low oil prices.