US to renew Iraq sanctions waiver for 45 days

The US has signaled to Iraq it’s willingness to extend sanctions waivers enabling the country to continue importing vital Iranian gas and electricity imports. (File/AP)
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Updated 12 February 2020

US to renew Iraq sanctions waiver for 45 days

  • The US slapped tough sanctions on the Iranian energy sector in late 2018 and initially granted Iraq a 45-day waiver
  • Baghdad relies on gas and electricity imports from its neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its power grid

BAGHDAD: The United States will grant Iraq a brief 45-day extension to a waiver allowing Baghdad to continue importing Iranian gas despite American sanctions, an Iraqi official told AFP on Wednesday.
The US slapped tough sanctions on the Iranian energy sector in late 2018 and initially granted Iraq a 45-day waiver before repeatedly extending it for 90 or 120 days.
Baghdad relies on gas and electricity imports from its neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its power grid, crippled by years of conflict and poor maintenance.
“The extension this time will be for just 45 days, with some strict conditions,” the senior Iraqi official said.
The two countries were still in talks over what exactly those conditions were.
Washington has repeatedly insisted Iraq wean itself off Iran by partnering with American companies to capture natural gas to use for its power plants and to improve transmission of electricity into homes to reduce waste.
Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with US powerhouse General Electric last year and has been in talks with other energy firms, but contracts have not yet been signed.
Both American and Iraqi officials told AFP the US was frustrated with Baghdad’s slow progress.
The latest waiver was set to expire this week but the US did not want to create additional pressure on prime minister-designate Mohammad Allawi, who is trying to form a new cabinet at a time of turmoil in Iraq.
“Washington didn’t want to hamstring Allawi just as he was starting out,” the official said.
Failing to renew the waiver could have exposed Iraq to secondary sanctions for dealing with Iran’s energy sector and central bank, both blacklisted by the US.
The waiver has allowed Iraq to continue importing about 1,400 megawatts of electricity and 28 million cubic meters (988 million cubic feet) of Iranian gas over the last 15 months.
Baghdad pays for the imports by depositing Iraqi dinars into an account at the state-owned Trade Bank of Iraq, which Iran is technically allowed to use to purchase non-sanctioned goods.
A few payments have been made but Iran had been unable to access the funds due to ongoing technical disputes.
TBI chairman Faisal Al-Haimus told AFP last month that if the waiver was not renewed, his bank would be forced to stop processing the payments.


UAE dives into Lake Manzala project

Updated 21 September 2020

UAE dives into Lake Manzala project

  • Egyptian campaign aims to return the lake to its previous state and revive local fishing industry

CAIRO: The UAE National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) has announced that it won the rights to the expansion project of Lake Manzala in Egypt, valued at 600 million UAE dirhams ($163 million).

The company’s announcement of the new project came following a disclosure published on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange website. It ensures compliance with the principle of disclosure and transparency in force in the UAE.

Lake Manzala is one of Egypt’s largest natural lakes. It is known for its potential fishing opportunities, as it has the basis for high fish stocks due to natural nutrients and a moderate climate throughout the year. It produces about half of the natural fish production in lakes.

The lake has witnessed neglect in recent years, losing much of its importance and wealth. In May 2017 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi launched a national project to develop Egyptian lakes, with a key focus on Lake Manzala.

NMDC said in a statement that winning the project came through its partnership with the Egyptian-Emirati Challenge Company. It said that it will take about two years to implement the project.

NMDC is one of the leading companies in the field of dredging, land reclamation and civil and marine construction in the Middle East. The Lake Manzala development project aims to improve the quality of water to restore free fishing and return the lake to its previous state, which will boost the local market and export output.

President El-Sisi said that Lake Manzala will contribute to enhancing Egypt’s fishing industry, and export operations will be activated after its full development. He directed the border governorates, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and the Armed Forces, to remove all encroachments and criminal outposts on the lake.

Several days ago, Dakahlia governorate completed a difficult operation to remove encroachments on the lake. A large campaign that used Armed Forces Engineering Authority equipment removed 301 houses in the Abdo El-Salhy area in El-Matareya city, known as the “fishermen’s land,” which was built on areas that were filled in from the lake. The operation occurred after local fishermen were persuaded to obtain compensation for vacating their houses.

Magdy Zaher, executive director of Manzala Lake, said that the engineering authority used 320 excavators and 20 imported suction dredgers to work in the lake.

The authority dredged the upper islands isolated from the water with the help of an Emirati bulldozing company to increase the efficiency and purification of Lake Manzala.

Zaher said the lake project will require several steps.

The most important is the removal of encroachments on the water surface and doubling its area to 250,000 feddans, he said. Dredging and deepening the lake, opening the gates and extending the radial channels to allow Mediterranean waters to enter the lake will follow, he added.

A safety belt will come in the form of a road 80 km long and 30 meters wide, which will surround the lake and prevent future encroachments. It will also divert the course of the Bahr El-Baqar water treatment plant, which pours 12 million cubic meters of sanitary, industrial and agricultural drainage into the lake, Zaher said.