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Turkey Allows More Water To Drought-Ravaged Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Turkey has agreed to release more water from the Euphrates River to drought-ravaged Iraq, an Iraqi official has said, after the heaviest rains in Turkey for 80 years caused deadly floods in Istanbul.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Turkey had agreed to increase outflow from the Euphrates River to between 450 and 500 cubic meters per second until October 20, after which the government would have to seek another deal.

The Euphrates flows from Turkey through Syria and to Iraq.

"There is an urgent need for water in Iraq during this period because of the crisis of agriculture," Dabbagh said.

Iraq, a country that is largely desert apart from the inhabitable areas near its great rivers, is suffering one of its worst droughts in living memory.

Poor rains have damaged crop yields in Iraq, where the farm sector is hobbled by the effects of war and sanctions. Iraq is already one of the world's largest wheat importers because domestic yields consistently fall short of demand.

Baghdad accuses Ankara of choking the Euphrates with hydroelectric dams that have restricted the flow.

The Iraqi government has more recently accused Turkey of reneging on a June deal to guarantee its downstream neighbor a minimum of 400 cubic meters of water per second from the Tigris and Euphrates, saying it too often falls short of that level.

But Turkey has had no shortage of water in the past two weeks. Flash floods last week killed 31 people in northwest Turkey, sweeping through Istanbul, swamping houses, and turning highways into fast-flowing rivers.