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EU, Iraq sign energy agreement

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union and Iraq signed an agreement Monday to strengthen their energy cooperation in areas such as natural gas, energy security and renewables, a Brussels spokesman said.

"Iraq represents a vital link for EU's security of supply," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in a statement after the deal was inked in Baghdad.

Iraq "is already an important supplier of oil and can become a key gas supplier" for the EU projects aimed at importing natural gas from the region, he added.

Iraq is seen as an important potential source of gas to Europe, which is seeking to diversify its supply sources away from Russia and is looking in particular at imports from the Caspian, Central Asia and the Middle East.

One of the EU's energy priorities is to develop a 3,000-kilometre-long (1,865 miles) gas pipeline, dubbed Nabucco, to bring gas in via Turkey.

Initially the main source is likely to be Azerbaijan, but Iraq is considered a key potential supplier.

After signing the memorandum, Piebalgs met with Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki for "a discussion on bilateral relations," the commission statement said.

Piebalgs underlined the EU "commitment to establish a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with Iraq."

EU - Iraq Strategic Energy Partnership Memorandum of Understanding - briefing

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