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BAGHDAD: Iraq has no alternative to importing Iranian gas, the country's electricity ministry said on Monday, adding that halting imports would cost Iraq's power grid 4,000 megawatts per day.

"Until now, we have no alternatives to replace imports of Iranian gas," ministry spokesman Musab al-Mudaris told reporters on the sidelines of an energy forum in Baghdad.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas imports to feed its power grid. Iraq's generates 14,000 megawatts on the national grid, with an additional 4,000 megawatts generated by imported gas and power.

Gas imports to Iraq from Iran will increase to 35 million cubic metres per day in June from 28 million cubic metres, Mudaris added. This is expected to increase the power generated by Iranian imports to 4,700 megawatts, Mudaris said.

Iraq's power needs are growing by 7 percent each year, he said.

In the summer months starting in June, when temperatures across southern Iraq soar, demands on the grid reach up to 24,000 megawatts per day, he added.

Last year, power shortages led thousands of protesters to rally across Iraq's oil-rich south, causing serious disruptions and clashes with security forces. Many are bracing for another round of protests this summer.

Iraq has received repeated extensions to a US waiver to continue importing Iranian gas since US President Donald Trump restored sanctions on Iran's vital energy sector in November.

In March, Iraq was granted another 90-day waiver.

The United States is expected to announce on Monday that buyers of Iranian oil need to end imports soon or face sanctions, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Iraq recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia for a deal to boost the country's electricity, Mudaris said.

The deal, which will see 280 km (149 miles) of power lines built to connect the two countries, will take about one year to complete after a feasibility study has been completed.

Last month, Iraq agreed a contract with Siemens to rehabilitate Kirkuk's power infrastructure and boost its production to 260 megawatts up from 100 megawatts now.

Copyright Reuters, 2019