Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

Iraqi finance minister in Saudi Arabia for new government's first foreign trip

Ali Allawi was received by the kingdom's Minister of Finance Muhammad Al Jadaan

Ali Allawi, Iraqi finance minister, speaks at a news conference in 2007. EPA
Ali Allawi, Iraqi finance minister, speaks at a news conference in 2007. EPA

Iraq’s Minister of Finance Ali Allawi arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday, the first foreign visit from an official in the new government of Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that he was greeted at King Khalid International Airport by Minister of Finance Muhammad Al Jadaan, Minister of Commerce Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi, and Iraqi ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Qahtan Taha Khalaf.

No more details about his trip were given.

The new government under Mr Al Kadhimi was sworn in just two weeks ago following a five-month leadership vacuum. Responding to the coronavirus pandemic and a severe economic crisis brought on by falling oil prices is foremost on its agenda.

It is believed the visit is to seek additional funds to help the ailing Iraqi economy, which is largely dependent on oil revenues.

The new administration of Mr Al Kadhimi, who came to power earlier this month, is also preparing for a strategic dialogue with the US, expected to take place next month. The talks will touch on security and economic cooperation between both countries. Mr Al Kadhimi is seen as a US ally, having served as Iraq’s intelligence chief, a position that ties in closely with US intelligence.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought on a severe financial crisis in the war-torn country.

Areas of Baghdad believed to play a role in spreading the virus have been placed under a full lockdown as of Wednesday for a period of two weeks, Health Minister Hassan Al Tamimi said in a statement last week.

The areas lie in Baghdad's peripheries and are mostly impoverished and over-crowded. They include Sadr City, Habibia, Hurriya, Shula, Ameria, and Kamalia.

Mr Al Tamimi said in the statement the measures were taken in view of the rising number of cases in recent weeks and to stem the spread of the virus, according to the statement.

Also on Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Mr Al Kadhimi to discuss Iraq’s economic crisis as well as the upcoming US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue.

Mr Pompeo urged Prime Minister Kadhimi to pursue real reforms as he works with international institutions to provide financial assistance to Iraq, according to a statement released by the US State Department.

In some positive news for Iraq and its fight against terrorism, US-led coalition forces and their Kurdish-led allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, killed two regional ISIS leaders in a raid in eastern Syria this week, US Central Command announced on Friday.

Ahmad Isa Ismail al-Zawi and Ahmad Abd Muhammad Hasan Al Jughayfi were killed in the May 17 joint raid on an ISIS position in Deir Ezzor province, CentCom said in a statement.

Al Zawi, also known as Abu Ali Al Baghdadi, was the ISIS regional leader of north Baghdad, it said, and was "responsible for disseminating terrorist guidance from senior ISIS leadership to operatives in north Baghdad."

Al Jughayfi, also known as Abu Ammar, was a senior ISIS logistics and supplies official "responsible for directing the acquisition and transport of weapons, IED materials, and personnel across Iraq and Syria," CentCom said.

"The removal of these ISIS leaders will disrupt future attacks against innocent civilians and our security partners and in the region," it said.

"Due to the relentless pressure maintained by the SDF, ISIS's remaining leadership in the area continues to dwindle," CentCom added.

Updated: May 23, 2020 09:28 PM

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