In Rudaw 

Iraq’s electricity minister optimistic about upcoming gas talks with Iran

Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity expressed optimism on Thursday about upcoming talks with Iran on increasing natural gas imports to Baghdad.

Electricity minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush said that a delegation from his ministry will arrive in Tehran next week.

“In our upcoming visit to Iran, we hope to achieve what is needed to acquire the quantity of gas required for all electrical stations,” Hantoush told state media.

On Wednesday, ministry spokesperson Ahmed Mousa said that Iraq needs 50 million cubic meters of gas per day in winter, and 70 million per day in the summer, to cope with the increase in demand for electricity, according to the state-owned Iraqi News Agency (INA).

Mousa said that Iraq currently imports 20 million cubic meters from Iran, but will return to its original amount of 50 million cubic meters.

Iraq’s Minister of Finance Ali Allawi said on April 12 that Baghdad would “soon” pay debts owed to Tehran for gas and electricity imports following a meeting with Iran’s Minister of Cooperation, Labor and Social Welfare in Tehran.

Earlier this month, Hamid Husseini, a member of the administrative board of the Iranian-Iraqi Chamber of Commerce, told the semi-official ILNA news agency that Iraq was making excuses for not repaying money it Iran “under various pretexts.”

In December, Iran substantially reduced its natural gas exports to Iraq, threatening to plunge parts of the country into darkness as the National Iranian Gas Company announced that the Iraqi government owes it five billion dollars in gas supplies, in addition to a billion dollars for the delay in paying its debts repayment.

The US does not allow Iraq to pay Iranian dues in US dollars, but western and Iraqi sources said that Iraqi officials had obtained a green light from the United States to release the money owed to Iran in exchange for gas imports through a Swiss bank account.