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Monday, November 19, 2018, 09:54
Iraq's president meets Saudi king after visiting rival Iran
By Associated Press
Monday, November 19, 2018, 09:54 By Associated Press

In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi King Salman, right, meets with with Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,  Nov 18, 2018. (SAUDI PRESS AGENCY / AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's King Salman received Iraq's president in Riyadh on Sunday, a day after the Iraqi official visited the kingdom's rival, Iran.

Barham Salih's back-to-back visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia reflect the delicate balance Iraq seeks to maintain in a region where its two powerful neighbors are battling for supremacy.

The two countries on Saturday vowed to expand trade to US$20 billion a year, from US$8.5 billion in 2018

Salih was received at the airport in Riyadh by the province's governor and other Saudi officials. King Salman held a lunch in honor of the Iraqi president with ministers and high-level princes in attendance.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency released few details about Salih's talks with the monarch.

READ MORE: Iran said to cancel visit by Iraq's prime minister

On Saturday, Salih was in Tehran where he pledged to improve trade ties less than two weeks after the US restored oil sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord.

Iran has had major influence over Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, and is a key supplier of electricity, gas and goods to Iraqi markets. The two countries on Saturday vowed to expand trade to US$20 billion a year, from US$8.5 billion in 2018, despite the punishing US sanctions against Iran.

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In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi King Salman, right, walks with with Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,  Nov 18, 2018. (SAUDI PRESS AGENCY / AP)

Iraq is Iran's second-largest market after China, buying everything from food and machinery to electricity and natural gas.

But Saudi Arabia has been steadily courting Iraq in recent years, following a quarter-century estrangement brought about by Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia's oil minister was in Baghdad to discuss stabilizing oil prices in the wake of the latest US sanctions against Iran.

A flurry of meetings between Saudi officials and the new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi Riyadh in recent weeks suggest the Gulf kingdom is aiming to counter Iran's economic footprint in Iraq.

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