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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani heading a delegation left for Baghdad, Iraq on Monday.

Iran is determined to strengthen its brotherly ties with neighboring Iraq, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday before his “historic” first visit to the country, state television said on Monday.

The visit is a strong message to the United States and its regional allies that Iran still dominates Baghdad, a key arena for rising tension between Washington and Tehran.

“We are very much interested to expand our ties with Iraq, particularly our transport cooperation,” Rouhani said at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. “We have important projects that will be discussed during this visit.”

During the three-day visit a series of agreements will be signed in fields such as energy, transport, agriculture, industry and health Iran’s state news agency IRNA said.

“Iraq is another channel for Iran to bypass America’s unjust sanctions imposed on Iran. This trip will provide opportunities for Iran’s economy,” a senior Iranian official, who is accompanying Rouhani, told Reuters.

The parlous state of Iran’s economy since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last May to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers has pushed the country’s leaders to try to expand trade ties with neighbors.

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Hassan Rouhani Iraq and Iran
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