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article imageItaly's Conte discusses IS 'insurgency' with Iraqi leaders

By AFP     Feb 6, 2019 in World

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visited Baghdad on Wednesday, meeting his Iraqi counterpart Adel Abdel Mahdi and President Barham Saleh for talks on the fight against the Islamic State group.

"Iraqi efforts to defeat Daesh have been fundamental", Conte told reporters in Iraq's capital, using an Arab acronym for IS.

"But we must be conscious that the Daesh insurgency still constitutes a serious threat that requires vigilant attention and a collective effort."

IS seized swathes of Iraq in a lightning offensive in 2014, prompting a gruelling Iraqi operation backed by an international coalition that includes Italy.

Baghdad finally declared "victory" over the jihadists in December 2017.

However, IS maintains sleeper cells, including along the border with Syria, and has carried out periodic hit-and-run attacks.

Conte was latest in a string of western leaders to visit Iraq in recent weeks, including US President Donald Trump, who sparked outrage by failing to meet a single Iraqi official.

Conte and Iraqi officials also discussed economic reconstruction and the preservation of Iraq's cultural heritage.

The Italian premier said his country was helping to "train the Iraqi police" and was lending its expertise to help UNESCO preserve historical treasures in a country that boasts five world heritage sites.

His visit came days after Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italian oil giant Eni, met Iraq's oil minister Thamer Abbas Ghadbane in Baghdad.

Eni says it "operates" 475,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in Iraq.

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