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Iranian FM Arrives In Baghdad For Talks Amid Tensions With U.S.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Baghdad for talks with his Iraqi counterpart and other officials amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.

Zarif will meet with Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Ali Alhakim, President Barham Salih, and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi during his two-day visit that began on May 25, the official IRNA news agency said.*

Iraqi TV aired footage of Zarif upon arrival in Baghdad while being received by the Foreign Ministry's undersecretary, Nizar Khairallah.

A spokesman for Iraq's Foreign Ministry said Zarif will discuss the situation in the region and ways of finding common ground.

Zarif’s visit comes a day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the deployment of 1,500 additional military personnel to the Middle East.

Trump’s announcement on May 24 was later followed by a statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the administration planned to sell $8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan to "deter Iranian aggression."

Earlier in May, the United States sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Middle East in response to unnamed threats from Iran.

Zarif said the U.S. move to send troops to the region “was extremely dangerous…[for] international peace.”

Shortly after Zarif’s arrival in Baghdad, Iraqi parliament speaker Muhammad al-Halbusi, said that his country is ready to mediate between the United States and Iran if it is asked to do so.

"We are ready to mediate to solve the crisis between Washington and Tehran if we are asked for that," said Halbusi in comments carried by state TV.

He added that there has been "no official request for such mediation."

Iraq maintains close ties with both Washington and Tehran.

Abdul-Mahdi said earlier this week that Baghdad will send delegations to the United States and Iran to help end tensions between the two countries. He added that Baghdad is neutral in the conflict.

Tension between the United States and Iran have escalated ever since the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran last year and imposed strict sanctions aimed at crippling Iran's economy.

Iran announced earlier this month that it would stop implementing some key provisions of the deal, citing the U.S. exit and the sanctions

With reporting by AP and dpa
*A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the Iraqi prime minister as Muhammad al-Halbusi, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament.
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