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Iran’s imports of basic goods via Iraq at $1.5bn in year to March: Businessman

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A businessman says Iran has used blocked funds in Iraq to increase its imports of basic goods.

Iran’s imports of basic goods from Iraq increased nearly four-fold over the year to late March, says a businessman watching over trade between the two neighbors, as he suggests that a bulk of those imports have been funded through Iraq's energy arrears to Iran.

Yahya Al Es’haq, who chairs Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, said on Saturday that basic goods imports via Iraq had reached nearly $1.5 billion over the past calendar year, up from $400 million recorded in the year to March 2021.

“The supply of basic goods from Iraq increased because we imported parts of the goods we need through the funds (blocked) in Iraq,” Al Es’haq was quoted as saying by semi-official Fars news agency.

Al Es’haq said earlier this month that Baghdad had reduced its unpaid energy bill to Tehran to just over $1 billion from more than $5 billion reported in late 2020.

Iranian government officials have yet to confirm the figures. Reports in the Iraqi media have suggested that the Arab country has managed to repatriate part of the Iranian funds that had remained blocked in a bank account because of American sanctions on Tehran.   

The Iranian Oil Ministry announced earlier this month it will raise the amount of natural gas exports to Iraq after a delegation from the country traveled to Tehran and gave guarantees that energy imports arrears would be settled soon.

The Government Trading Corporation of Iran said on Saturday that its imports of basic goods, including grain and animal feed, had reached nearly 2 million metric tons in the two first moths of the current calendar year.

The company said its basic goods inventories had increased compared to the similar period last year.

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