Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Pakistan rejects ‘politically motivated’ listing as violator of religious freedoms by US

December 12, 2018
Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo
Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo

The Foreign Office (FO) today issued Islamabad’s reaction to the listing, saying: “Pakistan rejects the US State Department’s unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement … Besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions over the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise.”

The FO explained measures that the government had taken to safeguard the rights of its citizens, including the use of legal and administrative mechanisms, adding that Islamabad submits compliance reports on its obligations with respect to fundamental freedoms as a party to seven of nine core human rights treaties.


How Pakistan safeguards its minorities, according to FO:

  • Equal treatment of minorities enshrined in Constitution
  • Special seats reserved for minorities in Parliament
  • National Commission on Human Rights addresses concerns over violations of minorities’ rights
  • Successive governments make protection of minorities a priority
  • Judiciary has made several landmark decisions to protect the properties and places of worship of minority communities

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities,” the statement asserted.

The FO suggested that honest introspection on Washington’s part would have been a timely move in order to ascertain the causes behind the exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.

“Sadly, the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes to the systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement added.

The FO described Pakistan as a “multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together.”

Last year, Pompeo had placed Pakistan on a special watch list — a step short of the designation — which is used to persuade the targeted nation into introducing reforms suggested in annual US reports for religious freedom.

The designation is based on these annual reports and opens the door for further actions, including US economic sanctions. The US has already imposed strict economic sanctions on Pakistan for its alleged refusal to follow the Trump administration’s Afghan strategy.

The designation also includes al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Isis, Isis-Khorasan, and the Taliban as entities of particular concern.

Blacklisting Pakistan a ‘brazen political tactic’: Mazari

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari expressed surprise at the US administration’s decision to designate Pakistan among “countries of particular concern”, terming it a “brazen political tactic to pressure Pakistan to mitigate US failures in Afghanistan”.

The PTI minister, in her official statement on the development, acknowledged that “there is no doubt that Pakistan’s record on religions freedom is not ideal” but questioned if “the EU’s record” is any better “given the restrictions on churches, the banning of certain dress codes of Mulsims, refusal of entry of certain preachers — the list continues.”

Mazari reminded the US that “in our own neighbourhood we have India where Muslims are being targeted and where the BJP is supporting violence against Muslims ostensibly over beef.”

“The timing of the US move smacks of pure political blackmailing because it comes in the wake of Pakistan opening the Katarpur corridor to ease access for the Sikhs of India,” the statement reads.

The human rights minister said that she would “like to educate the Trump administration” that a “diverse denominations of Christian churches are present in Pakistan”, including Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian and others.

Mazari made it clear that the US attempt to pressurise “Pakistan to do its bidding” will not work, directing their attention to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent remarks that he would net allow the country to be anyone’s “hired gun” anymore.

“It is time for the US to take responsibility for its failures in Afghanistan … and if it is serious about religious freedoms then it needs to examine the record of Modi’s India and and some of its EU allies,” she added.

Pompeo waives CPC sanctions for Pakistan

A US Embassy spokesperson today told DawnNewsTV that Pompeo, along with placing Pakistan on the list, had concurrently issued a waiver of ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) sanctions against Pakistan “as required by ‘the important national interest of the United States’.”

The spokesperson explained that each country given the CPC designation “presents unique challenges, as well as a different potential for change”.

“The measures the United States carries out or waives with respect to a CPC are part of a broader strategy that aims to improve respect for religious freedom in that country,” the spokesperson added.

“In certain instances, the Secretary (Pompeo) has determined that a waiver of the Presidential Action was required in the important national interest of the United States.”

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Pakistan rejects US blacklist for religious freedom violations

December 12, 2018

Pakistan on Wednesday rejected Washington’s decision to place it on a blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, branding the move “politically motivated” and defending its treatment of minorities.

The US move to designate Pakistan “among countries of particular concern” comes at a difficult time for relations between the nations, with the Trump administration accusing Islamabad of failing to act against Islamist militants on its soil.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country (on) how to protect the rights of its minorities,” a statement from the foreign ministry said, adding that Islamabad “rejects” the designation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move to blacklist Pakistan in a congressionally mandated annual report released Tuesday.

In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy

In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy AFP/File

The measure means the US government is obliged to exert pressure, including imposing sanctions if necessary, to end freedom violations.

However, a spokesman with the US embassy in Islamabad clarified on Wednesday that Pompeo had issued a waiver over potential sanctions against Pakistan as required by “the important national interest of the United States”.

Blasphemy is an inflammatory charge in Pakistan, and high-profile vigilante murders and mob lynchings have been carried out in the past.

In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy.

She remains in protective custody in an unknown location after violent protests against her acquittal, and a hardline cleric has been charged with terrorism and sedition over the demonstrations.

Bibi is currently seeking asylum abroad. Her family claims her life will be in danger if she remains in Pakistan.

The foreign ministry statement did not mention Bibi, or the issue of blasphemy.

“Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together,” it said.

It also warned that honesty would have required Washington to examine the “exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US”.

– ‘Particular concern’ –

Pakistan says around four percent of its total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths.

Human rights advocates have long voiced alarm about the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan including Shiites and the Ahmadis, whom Islamabad forbids from identifying as Muslim.

The State Department had earlier held off on condemning Pakistan, a vital gateway for US forces in Afghanistan.

But it last year placed Pakistan on a special watch list — a step short of the designation — and Washington has separately curbed military assistance.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad have soured in recent years, with US officials repeatedly accusing Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups like the Afghan Taliban, which attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The troubled relationship hit another snag last month after Trump declared he had cancelled assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars because Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US.

Nine countries remained for another year on the US list of “countries of particular concern” — China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The United States removed one country from the blacklist — Uzbekistan — but kept it on the watch list.

AFP

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UN reports more suspected Iranian missiles found in Yemen

December 12, 2018

More suspected Iranian-made weapons have been found in Yemen, the UN says in a report that will be discussed Wednesday by the Security Council.

The Gulf monarchies and United States accuse Iran of supporting Huthi rebels in Yemen — and see this as justification for the military campaign they have been waging in Yemen since 2015.

Iran supports the rebels politically but denies supplying them with arms.

Iran supports the Huthi rebels in Yemen politically but denies supplying them with arms

Iran supports the Huthi rebels in Yemen politically but denies supplying them with arms Iran supports the Huthi rebels in Yemen politically but denies supplying them with arms AFP

The report from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ office says his staff examined two container launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The Secretariat found that they had characteristics of Iranian manufacture,” the report said.

“The Secretariat also examined a partly disassembled surface-to-air missiles seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” it added.

Image result for Houthis , Yemen, ballistic missile , photos

A photo distributed by the Houthi rebels shows the launch of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2018. Reuters

surface-to-air missile seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” it added.

A probe into the origin of the weapons continues, it said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to attend Wednesday’s meeting on Iran, scheduled to start at 1500 GMT.

Guterres’ report mainly addresses Iran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with six major powers. The United States pulled out of the accord in May and has reimposed sanctions on Iran.

The report concludes that Iran continues to abide by the nuclear accord, under which it won sanctions relief in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

The UN has said in the past that Yemen’s Huthi rebels have fired Iranian-made missiles at Saudi Arabia. But it said it could not be certain that these weapons were in fact supplied by Iran in what would be a violation of UN resolutions.

AFP

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U.S. designates Boko Haram, ISIS ‘entities of particular concern’

December 12, 2018

The United States has announced the designation of the Boko Haram terrorist group as an entity “of particular concern”. The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in a statement, designated Boko Haram alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qa’ida and al-Shabab.

Boko Haram

Pompeo also designated Saudi Arabia, Iran, Burma, North Korea, among “countries of particular concern”, while Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan were placed on “special watch list”.

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/12/u-s-designates-boko-haram-isis-entities-of-particular-concern/

U.S. Congress pushes legislation to sanction Hamas and Hezbollah for using human shields

December 12, 2018

Legislation calls for sanctions on both terror organizations as ‘repeated’ practitioners of action that violates international law

Image result for Hamas, photos

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would target for sanctions Hezbollah and Hamas for using civilians as human shields, guaranteeing that it will become law.

“This critical and timely legislation mandates new sanctions against Hamas, Hezbollah and foreign state agencies that use civilians as human shields or provide support to those doing so,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement Tuesday after the House passed the bill. The Senate passed the measure in October.

IDF footage of unearthed Hezbollah attack tunnel on the northern border (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF footage of unearthed Hezbollah attack tunnel on the northern border (Israel Defense Forces)

The bill castigates Hezbollah, a terrorist Lebanese militia backed by Iran, and Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, as “repeated” practitioners of an action that violates international law. It notes reports that Hezbollah is concealing missiles in villages in Lebanon and that Hamas routinely launches missiles at Israel from densely populated areas.

The bill, which had bipartisan backing, now goes to US President Donald Trump for his signature.

Israel last week launched a military operation to find attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah under the border with Israel. Operation Northern Shield has so far uncovered three such tunnels, one of which originated in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila and another in the village of Ramiyeh.

The army has also said it is aware of the existence of other tunnels, but has yet to fully expose them.

Israel has accused Hamas, which is sworn to destroy the Jewish state, of fighting from within civilian areas and storing munitions under residential buildings.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/congress-backs-bill-targeting-hamas-and-hezbollah-for-using-human-shields/

See also:

Sanctioning of the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act

https://www.jpost.com/American-Politics/Congress-passes-bill-targeting-use-of-human-shields-by-Israels-enemies-574107

Pressure builds on Yemen’s warring parties as peace talks focus on port

December 12, 2018

Yemen’s warring parties are being pressed to agree thorny confidence-building measures, including the status of a strategic Red Sea port, in consultations on Wednesday before the close of the first U.N.-led peace talks in two years.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to attend final talks in Sweden on Thursday to support his envoy’s efforts and meet delegates from the Iran-aligned Houthi group and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Ambassadors from countries that are permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – joined talks with delegation heads on Tuesday, sources said.

Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015, want an end to nearly four years of war that have killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

Hodeidah port, Yemen — The area could be put under the control of a joint committee and supervised by the United Nations. (File/AFP)

President Donald Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he could abide by legislation being considered by the Senate to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort following outrage over the Oct. 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

“I hate to see what’s going on in Yemen,” Trump said. “But it takes two to tango. I’d want to see Iran pull out of Yemen too. Because – and I think they will.”

The nearly four-year-old conflict is largely seen in the Middle East as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its rival, Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which has welcomed the peace efforts.

The Western-backed Sunni Muslim Arab coalition intervened in the civil war to restore Hadi’s government which was ousted from the capital Sanaa in 2014 by the Houthis, who now control most population centers, including the Red Sea city of Hodeidah.

“THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS”

U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, where coalition forces have massed on the outskirts, is asking both sides to withdraw from the city.

His proposal envisions an interim entity be formed to run the city and port, and international monitors deployed.

Both sides agree to a U.N. role in the port, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial imports and vital aid, but differ on who should run the city. The Houthis want Hodeidah declared a neutral zone while Hadi’s government believes the city should fall under its control as a matter of sovereignty.

“The devil is in the details – withdraw how far (from Hodeidah), the sequence, who governs and delivers services,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The parties have also yet to agree on reopening Sanaa airport, shoring up the central bank and a transitional governing body.

Some progress has been made since the talks were launched last week with a prisoner swap deal. The two sides on Tuesday exchanged lists of about 15,000 prisoners to be released under supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Another round of peace talks could be held in early 2019.

Coalition leaders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates want to exit a costly conflict bogged down in stalemate since 2015 after the alliance seized the southern port of Aden, the Hadi government’s current base.

Hadi returned to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday from the United States where he underwent routine medical tests, his office said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden and Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Reuters

What to Do About Huawei?

December 12, 2018

China’s turn toward totalitarianism should not shake Western confidence in freedom.

It will be a different kind of cold war, if a new cold war is in the offing with China.

The daughter of a top-ranking Chinese business leader has been sitting in a Canadian jail, subject to a U.S. extradition request. In arguing for bail in Canada, her lawyer cited facts that never would have been cited in the case of a Soviet official arrested while passing through Vancouver’s airport: She owns two homes in Vancouver. Three of her children and her husband were educated in the city. Her family members still summer there.

Image result for Huawei, pictures, logo

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 — (Wang Yi hints that human rights laws are being violated)

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Two missile launchers found in Yemen appear to be from Iran

December 11, 2018

Two launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen appear to have been manufactured in Iran during 2016 and 2017, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres does not specifically state whether the discovery of the units in Yemen was a violation of a U.N. resolution that took effect in January 2016. It prevents Iran from importing and exporting arms or related materiel unless the Security Council has given approval.

Related image

“The Secretariat found that they had characteristics of Iranian manufacture and that their markings indicated production dates in 2016 and 2017,” Guterres said in his biannual report to the Security Council on the implementation of sanctions on Iran.

“The Secretariat also examined a partly disassembled surface-to-air missile seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” he wrote.

A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-allied Houthis. The Houthis have been subject to a separate arms embargo since 2015. Iran has repeatedly denied supplying weapons to the Houthis.

Image result for Houthis , Yemen, ballistic missile , photos

A photo distributed by the Houthi rebels shows the launch of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2018. Reuters

The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the latest report from Guterres on Wednesday, diplomats said.

The United States has loudly and unsuccessfully pushed the United Nations to hold Iran accountable over accusations it is meddling in the wars in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. In February Russia vetoed a Western attempt to have the Security Council call out Tehran in a resolution on Yemen.

Guterres also said the United Nations had also examined the debris of three more ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia on March 25 and April 11, 2018, and found “specific key design features consistent with those of the Iranian Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile.” However, it could not determine if it was a violation as it was unknown when they were transferred to Yemen.

He said the United Nations “is still working on establishing the production date range of guidance subcomponents with the assistance of the foreign manufacturers.”

In his June report, Guterres said debris from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by the Houthis since July 2017 “share key design features with a known type of missile” manufactured by Iran and some components were manufactured in Iran, but also could not determine when they were transferred to Yemen.

Most U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in January 2016 when the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran fulfilled commitments under a nuclear deal with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States. But Iran is still subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions.

The U.N. sanctions and restrictions on Iran are contained in a resolution that also enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from in May. European powers have been scrambling to salvage the deal.

In the U.N. report, Guterres called on all countries to “ensure the continuity of this agreement that is fundamental to regional and international peace and security.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Reuters

Huawei, Skycom and the Offshore Puzzle That Leads To Mauritius

December 11, 2018

Meng Wanzhou is accused of trying to hide links between the two companies but that ploy will fail

South China Morning Post

Image result for Huawei, Skycom pictures

Skycom Tech, the Hong Kong company at the centre of Huawei Technologies’ alleged violation of US sanctions on Iran, shared the same email domain as the Chinese telecoms equipment giant, public records show.

The contact email address listed for Skycom’s website, Skycom.com.hk, is domain@huawei.com, the same domain as Huawei’s official website, according to records available online at the Hong Kong Domain Name Registration Company.

The digital link between the two firms could prove important in the case against Huawei’s chief financial officer, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou.

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She is being held in Vancouver awaiting extradition to the US where prosecutors believe she deliberately misrepresented Skycom as a completely separate entity in an attempt to sidestep sanctions preventing Huawei doing business in Iran.

The case has rocked already strained relations between China and the US.

Canadian prosecutors alleged in court filings that Huawei used Skycom to circumvent the US sanctions. They claim the latter was in fact “an unofficial subsidiary” of Huawei, even though Meng had denied to US bankers any direct connection between the two companies.

The domain registration records give the name Shen Fen as the contact person for Skycom. The telephone and facsimile numbers listed for the website are located in a Huawei building in Shenzhen, according to the phone number website 114Best.com.

An attempt by the Post to contact Shen Fen found that the phone number was invalid.

Ming Pao, a Chinese newspaper, reported on Monday that Shen was Huawei’s corporate lawyer, and indeed a court ruling from May shows a Huawei employee named Shen Fen represented the company in a trademark dispute case.

The employee worked in Huawei’s intellectual property department, according to Ming Pao, but the Post was unable to reach Shen by phone at the company’s head office in Shenzhen.

Skycom’s website domain was registered in 2013, long after a Huawei subsidiary sold it in 2007 to Canicula Holdings, an offshore company registered in Mauritius, according to the company registration records.

The fact Skycom registered a Huawei domain six years after the two firms supposedly severed their links may add weight to the claims of US prosecutors that the latter used its “unofficial subsidiary” to carry out business in Iran.

Several Huawei spokespeople were approached for comment but did not immediately respond.

Former employees of Skycom have stated that its employees had Huawei email addresses and badges, according to a Bloomberg report citing a Canadian court filing.

Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, stands accused of violating the US government’s sanctions against Iran, and Meng could face trial in the US for misleading financial institutions into breaching those sanctions.

Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver while she was en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, at the request of the US Justice Department.

The case against Meng came at a high-stakes moment for the relationship between the world’s two largest economies, as they try to reach a resolution to their trade war.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump struck an agreement on a 90-day truce on December 1, almost nine months after the Trump administration made the first move to hit China with import tariffs on US$50 billion worth of its goods.

Technology is increasingly seen as the crux of the rivalry between the two nations, as China’s grand strategy to boost its hi-tech sectors, named “Made in China 2025”, has drawn the ire of the Trump administration.

Many are wondering if Huawei might suffer the same fate as ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications equipment company on which the US imposed a ban from April to July, a move which brought the firm to the brink of collapse. The ban prevented ZTE from buying parts and software from the US after it violated the country’s sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

Reuters first reported in 2013 that Huawei and Meng had close ties to Skycom which, according to Canadian prosecutors, tried to sell US equipment to Iran despite the sanctions.

https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2177512/huawei-and-skycom-firm-accused-breaching-us-sanctions-shared-web

See also:

Wall Street Journal:

Huawei CFO Case Hinges on an Offshore Puzzle

https://www.wsj.com/articles/arrest-of-huawei-cfo-hinges-on-an-offshore-puzzle-1544466378

As part of his visit to China, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth visited Huawei’s Executive Briefing Center and held talks with Peng Zhongyang, Senior Vice President at Huawei. He said that Huawei is a trusted partner of the country for digital transformation.

More in Whe Wall Street Journal article

https://www.wsj.com/articles/arrest-of-huawei-cfo-hinges-on-an-offshore-puzzle-1544466378

U.S. discusses Iran sanctions with Iraq, Baghdad hurt by curbs on Iranian gas imports

December 11, 2018

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday 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 Nov. 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.

Image result for Iraq, oil fields, photos

Iraq’s energy industry has been in disarray due to fighting Islamic State and political unrest

Iraq reached a deal with U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Chamber of Commerce which 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 U.S. sanctions target Iranian oil as well as its banking and transport 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 militants.

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 over 50 business people.

Reuters