Oct 21 2012
By Mohammed Dhaher
Azzaman, October 21, 2012
Western sanctions on Iran are having adverse impact on Iraq’s economy, according to Tareq al-Khaikani, the head of the economic commission for the southern Province of Karbala.
Khaikani’s remarks are the first admission that the sanctions bite into Iraq’s economy. He was particularly referring to religious tourism, the industry on which the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people depends in Iraq, particularly in the religious cities of Karbala and Najaf and to a lesser extent Baghdad and Samaraa.
He said the number of Iranian visitors has slumped to fewer than 1000 a day from more than 2500.
The reason, according to Khaikani, is the Iran’s currency plummeting to record levels against the dollar.
“The economic crisis in Iran is leaving a negative impact not only on tourism but the economy as a whole,” he said.
To encourage Iranians to continue visiting Iraq, the government says Iranian visitors can enter the country without a visas.
Khaikani said there were more than 400 hotels and hundreds of other small businesses that used to cater for the growing numbers of Iranian visitors only in Karbala.
Tourism and Antiquities minister Liwa Sumaism is said to be highly concerned about the plunge in number of Iranian visitors.
He is to raise the issue with both Iraqi and Iranian officials in Baghdad and Tehran in an attempt to encourage Iranians to visit.
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