Abadi tells Tillerson: PMF is hope of Iraq and region

Iranian-backed fighters
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has rejected a call by Washington for Iranian-backed fighters to leave Iraq at a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Baghdad.

Tillerson made the unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital on Monday came amid heightened tensions between the two countries over the role of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Shia paramilitaries that helped defeat ISIL in Iraq.

The top US diplomat had previously called for Iraq-based "Iranian militias ... to go home" as the fight against ISIL "is coming to a close".

But Abadi insisted on Monday that the force consists solely of Iraqi nationals who "fought terrorism" and made sacrifices that contributed to victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.

Calling it "part of the Iraqi institutions," Abadi said PMF fighters "should be encouraged because they will be the hope of country and the region", according to a statement by his media office.

Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, waded into debate, tweeting on Monday: "Exactly what country is it that Iraqis who rose up to defend their homes against ISIS return to?"


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