ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began a first official visit to Iraq on Monday (March 11), meant to bolster Tehran's influence and expand trade ties to help offset renewed U.S. sanctions.
Rouhani and his Iraqi counterpart President Barham Salih gave joint statements on economic cooperation after a red carpet welcome for the Iranian leader at the presidential palace.
Rouhani's visit also signalled to Washington and Gulf Arab allies that, in the face of U.S. sanctions reimposed after the U.S. pullout from world powers' nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran still plays a dominant role in Iraqi politics.
Prior to his departure, Rouhani said Shi'ite Muslim Iran was determined to strengthen ties with its Shi'ite-led Arab neighbour, Iranian state television reported on Monday.
During Rouhani's three-day visit a series of agreements will be signed in energy, transport, agriculture, industry and health, the Iranian state news agency IRNA said.
Iraq relies on Iranian gas imports to feed its power grid and has asked for extensions to a U.S. waiver to continue importing Iranian gas since U.S. President Donald Trump restored sanctions on Iran's vital energy sector in November.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that U.S. sanctions against Iran were "crimes against humanity" and said Tehran would file a legal case against U.S. officials for imposing difficulties..