According to Press TV, Luay al Khateeb said on Tuesday that gas imports from Iran were critical to protect electricity output in Iraq, a country facing recurrent power cuts that have even led to protests on the streets.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi, the minister said Iraq was still short of required supply of gas to generate enough electricity that could respond to peak demands in the country.
“At the end of the day it is an open market,” said Khateeb, adding, “We have balanced relations with everyone and people should respect it.”
The comments come amid Washington’s rising pressure on Iraq to cut Iranian gas imports to zero. Baghdad has largely resisted the pressure, saying it would be impossible for it to comply with sanctions that began last year when US withdraw from an international deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s current supplies of gas to Iraq are enough to generate around 22 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity while Iran provides an additional 10.5 TWh in direct power exports to help its neighbor cope with shortages.
Iraq’s current output of electricity stands at more than 150 TWh, well below the 220 TWh target the country needs to meet to respond to a growing domestic demand.
Lack of upgrades and lost capacity as a result of years of war by terrorists have also complicated the issue, prompting Baghdad to seek rounds of waivers from US sanctions on Iran.