Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C) is welcomed by officials upon his arrival in Ankara, Turkey on August 14, 2018. The Iraqi leader over the weekend canceled a scheduled visit to Tehran after announcing his government would adhere to US sanctions on Iran. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Muhammed Selim Korkutata

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced his country will abide by the minimal requirement of United States sanctions on Iran, appearing to qualify comments made last week.

“I said yes, we will abide … but abide when it comes to dollar transactions,” Abadi told a weekly press conference on Monday.

The Iraqi leader last week announced his country did not agree with the US sanctions, but would abide by them, saying that Iraq had no choice and must protect its interests.

A planned visit by Abadi to Tehran has since been canceled, with scarce explanation. The Iraqi leader kept a scheduled visit to Ankara, which began Tuesday.

The United States, following its unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May, has moved to reinstate sanctions on Iran.

The Treasury Department outlined a 90-day and a 180-day grace period for those sanctions to come back into force.

The first wind-down period expired August 6, paving the way for renewed sanctions on the purchase and acquisition of US dollars by Tehran. Other sectors targeted include Iran’s automotive industry.

The economic offensive has put Iraq, which counts both Washington and Tehran as key allies and trade partners, in a challenging position.

The US and Iran in recent years helped Baghdad wrest back its territory from the Islamic State militant group, with Prime Minister Abadi declaring victory over the extremists last December.

In the wake of the IS defeat, the US has ratcheted up pressure on Iran.

Abadi sought to downplay Iraq’s commitment to the US sanctions to reporters on Monday.

“Even they must abide — the Islamic Republic must abide,” he told reporters. “These are American sanctions. The dollar is their currency. When you work in dollars, you have to go through the Fed.”

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