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Iraq, Russia Discuss Heightened Military Cooperation Amid U.S. Strains

Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi discussed military cooperation with Russia. (file photo)

Iraq's Defense Ministry says it has discussed the possibilities for deepening military cooperation with Russia, as ties between Baghdad and Washington fray following a U.S. air strike that killed a top Iranian general in the country.

The statement by the ministry on February 6 followed a meeting in Baghdad between the chief of staff of Iraq's army, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi, and Russian Ambassador Maksim Maksimov, along with Moscow’s newly arrived defense attache.

Ghanimi praised Moscow's role in the battle against the Islamic State extremist group, saying the Russians had provided “our armed forces with advanced and effective equipment and weapons that had a major role in resolving many battles," the ministry statement said.

The statement added that the two sides discussed prospects for "cooperation and coordination" and that Maksimov extended an invitation to Ghanimi to visit Russia and meet with his counterpart "within the framework of strengthening cooperation between the two countries."

Moscow did not immediately comment.

Iraq has relied heavily on Washington's military and financial support since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003. It has attempted to balance relations with Washington and Tehran, which maintains strong influence with Shi'ite militias, although recent street protests have expressed anger about foreign influence in the country.

Based on reporting by AP