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Iraqi PM to make back-to-back trips to Iran, Saudi Arabia

Kadhimi is well-liked by Riyadh and Tehran, which formed closer relationships with him when he led Iraq's intelligence services
Iraqi officials outlined plans to convince Saudi Arabia to fund development projects to help rebuild the country (AFP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is set to make back-to-back visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia in a bid to balance regional rivalries during his first foreign trip as premier, officials confirmed on Saturday. 

Kadhimi will host Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in Baghdad on Sunday, before heading to Saudi Arabia the following day with the Iraqi ministers for oil, electricity, planning and finance. 

The Iraqi officials will stay in NEOM, an area in the Gulf kingdom's northwest, where they are scheduled to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

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Officials outlined that talks between Iraqi officials and Saudi Arabia will focus on financing development programmes proposed by Baghdad earlier this month, and reopening the Arar border crossing between the two countries. 

The Iraqi delegation will then travel to Tehran on Tuesday, where Kadhimi is expected to meet Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei. 

Kadhimi came to the premiership in May following his stint as head of Iraq's National Intelligence Service for four years, where he formed a close relationship with bin Salman.

He is also well respected by Iran's intelligence services and government circles, which prompted speculation that he could mediate between the two regional foes. 

The premier is also well liked in Washington and is expected to be the first Iraqi premier to visit the White House in three years.