Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Sadr meets Sistani as followers deny coalition talks

Asharq Al-Awsat reports:

The leader of Iraq’s Sadrist movement, Moqtada Al-Sadr, met with Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, in a well-publicized visit on Sunday, despite Sadr’s repeated claims that he has retired from Iraqi politics.

A statement issued by the Sadr bureau said: “Moqtada Al-Sadr visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani at his home in Najaf . . . they discussed the general situation in Iraq and the importance of providing security and services to the Iraqi people.”

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NAWAH partners with Iraq on major project to expand, modernize Basra port

Business Wire reports:

NAWAH Port Management (NPM), a business unit of North America Western Asia Holdings, announced today that it has entered into a formal agreement with Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation and the General Company for Ports of Iraq to quadruple the size of its terminal operations at the Port of Basra (also known as Al Maqal Port), Iraq’s historic port located in Basra’s city center on the Shatt Al Arab waterway.

By expanding its operations to a second terminal, NAWAH is building upon its commitment to modernize the Port of Basra, revitalizing the Shatt Al Arab as a major trade lane for industrial and commercial cargo alike.

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Jordan, Egypt, Iraq discuss railway link project

Jordan News Agency reports:

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Saturday met with Egyptian Minister of Transport, Ibrahim Demeiri, and Undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Transport, Salman Jassim, and discussed the railway project linking the three countries.

Discussing the outcomes of the separate meetings of the Jordanian-Egyptian Higher Committee and the Jordanian-Iraqi Higher Committee, Ensour stressed the importance of the railway project in linking the countries of the Levant with North Africa, a move which will increase the trade cooperation and consolidate the Arab countries’ economic interests.

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American fast food chains and hotels set up shop in Iraq

The Malay Mail reports:

In a sign of things to come, Pizza Hut has announced the opening of its first restaurant in Iraq, where appetites for Western-style fast food are growing.

After pulling out with US troops in 2011, Pizza Hut has returned to the country, this time within reach of ordinary Iraqi citizens. The former restaurant was located on US military bases.

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KDP should not expect any election reward

The Kurdistan Tribune writes:

In the election campaign in the south of Kurdistan to win seats in the Iraqi parliament, there are some key issues. Top of the list is the ongoing shortage of money to pay civil servants’ wages and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) failure to solve this problem. Second, the vacuum caused by the long delay in forming the eighth KRG cabinet following the 21st September 2013 regional parliamentary elections. Third, the KDP’s attitude towards the nationalist movement in the west of Kurdistan and its decision to dig a border ditch between the west and the south, which will have an impact of voters. Fourth,  Erbil’s dispute with the Baghdad government, which is still in deadlock.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) needs to fix what is broken but it is doing very little and wants to give the impression that very little can be done about the current political tensions. The south of Kurdistan is on a gradual course to chaos and instability and the KDP’s election tactics may benefit the PUK and Gorran. Parties rarely win elections without persuading swing voters of their economic competency. The economic downturn of recent months has affected the standing of the KDP more than the other parties. There hasn’t been any official opinion poll yet but, based on our conversations with many people over the last several days, the KDP’s share of the vote seems to be dwindling.

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Series of bombings kill more than 20 across Iraq

Duraid Adnan reports in The New York Times:

Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gained control of the main road that links Baghdad with the northern provinces for a short time on Sunday, while a series of explosions around Iraq left up to 25 dead, according to security forces.

In the deadliest blast of the day, a car bomb was detonated as a joint patrol for the police and army passed through Mosul in the north, killing 10 and wounding 12 others, the security forces said.

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Iraqis in resort town face return to Anbar unrest

Prashant Rao of Agence France-Presse reports:

When fighting erupted in Iraq's Anbar province in December, Abu Mohammed fled with his family to a virtually empty summer resort far to the north to take advantage of its off-season rates and wait out the conflict.

But high season is about to begin in Shaqlawa, nestled beneath the Safin Mountains nearly 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) up, a place where Iraqis seek to escape scorching summer temperatures.

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Iraq goes to the polls with war as an inescapable backdrop

Martin Chulov reports in the Guardian:

The last time Iraq went to the polls, in 2010, US forces were in town and insurgents hovered around the edges. Now, the foreign troops are gone, but extremism has returned to overshadow a democratic watershed in a divided country.

Banners pledging unity rise above traffic-snarled Baghdad crossroads. Politicians dominate the national airwaves with their promises of services. The 30 April election is framed as a vital self-reckoning and a chance for transformation in a society that is withered by uncertainty and the creep of regional chaos.

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Sectarianism is the bane of free and fair polls in Iraq

Mohammad Akef Jamal
 writes in Gulf News:

Iraqi elections, which take place every four years, kicked off on April 1. Undoubtedly, this is the most important event in Iraq’s political life.

The circumstances surrounding the elections in Iraq today are no better than those that prevailed during the last elections four years ago. In fact, the dominant atmosphere today is far worse than that in 2010; today, there is an ongoing war in more than one location around Iraq, there are severe tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, and there is a general discontent regarding the status quo in the country and an overwhelming call for change.

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Cardinal Delly remembered for his devotion to Iraqis during war

Zenit reports:

The prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, has sent a message of condolence to His Beatitude Raphael Louis Sako I, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, following the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly.

Cardinal Filoni recalled having lived with Patriarch Delly in Baghdad and Rome. “I remember the human and fraternal manner he welcomed me every time we met, the closeness and tribulations for the beloved country Iraq, the concerns for our Christians, hopes for the Chaldean Church."

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