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Iraqi Oil Governor Defects To Iran Amid Corruption Probe

Iraq

Iraq’s anti-corruption push has led the governor of oil-rich Basra to quit his job and defect to Iran, according to sources close to the matter who spoke to Reuters.

New allegations of graft against the official, who remains under investigation by specially appointed federal authorities, caused the biggest resignation in Iraq so far since the election of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in 2014. The Islamic Dawa Party candidate campaigned on a strong anti-corruption stance in the previous elections, leading the moderate to win a very close contest.

The Integrity Commission requested Iran to expedite Majid al-Nasrawi on Monday evening in a statement.

"He can travel wherever he likes as long as there are no legal obstacles,” it read. The former governor’s family declined to comment, as did the lawyer’s association in Basra.

Iraq continues to face economic growth challenges due to the consistently lower oil prices and fallout from the war with the Islamic State, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)  said last week after the end of its latest consultation on the state of affairs in OPEC’s number-two exporter.

The country booked a deficit of 14 percent last year, up from 12 percent for 2015, with foreign exchange reserves shrinking to US$45 billion last year from US$54 billion at the end of 2015 because of the drop in oil prices. At the same time, humanitarian and security spending increased, further burdening Baghdad’s efforts to return to growth.

Iraq is still heavily dependent on oil, as evidenced by the 11-percent increase in real GDP last year thanks to a 25-perent increase in oil production despite lower prices. However, the Fund said, this year GDP growth will be pressured by Iraq’s commitment to an output cut in line with OPEC’s strategy to rebalance the market.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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