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Dec 5, 7:05 AM EST

Saudi oil minister talks of strengthening ties on Iraq visit


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BASRA, Iraq (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's oil minister says relations between the kingdom and Baghdad are improving.

Khalid al-Falih spoke during a visit to the southern Iraqi port city of Basra on Tuesday where he attended an energy conference.

He says Saudi Arabia wants to expand investment projects in Iraq to include energy, manufacturing and natural resources. The visit comes amid months of improving ties between the two countries.

Iraq is looking for regional support as the country struggles to rebuild after ousting the Islamic State group from major cities and as it deals with an independence movement in its northern Kurdish region.

While Iraq remains a key Iranian ally, the United States has encouraged Baghdad to also improve relations with Saudi Arabia in an effort to counterweight to Iranian influence in the region.

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