US blames Iran as it readies to shut Iraq consulate

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Washington, Sep 29 : The US has said it will close its consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra and blamed increasing threats from Iran and Tehran-backed forces.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said all but emergency staff would be relocated to Baghdad, the BBC reported on Saturday.

Pompeo said the US would hold Iran responsible for any harm to its citizens or facilities and accused Tehran of failing to prevent recent rocket attacks directed at the American consulate, the BBC said.

The decision comes amid growing tensions with Iran, after President Donald Trump re-instated economic sanctions on Tehran following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Basra is home to more than two million people and has witnessed violent protests over the past few weeks as protesters set alight government and political buildings, including the Iranian consulate and the headquarters of an Iran-backed paramilitary force, after a number of people were killed in clashes with police.

The protests in the city have been fuelled by growing public anger over poor infrastructure, contaminated water and a lack of jobs in a region that generates much of Iraq’s oil wealth.

They have also denounced what they perceive as Iran’s control of local affairs, said the BBC report.

Pompeo said there were “increasing and specific” threats against Americans and US facilities in Iraq.

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