16:28 GMT08 April 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US is considering steps to weaken Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias in addition to sanctions it had imposed earlier on the militia leaders, Vice President Mike Pence told Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani in a phone conversation, according to a press release on Tuesday.

    "Vice President Pence emphasized the United States’ concern that Iran-backed militias continue to undermine Iraq’s security and sovereignty and that the US government will consider additional steps to degrade such groups’ influence", the release from Pence’s office said.

    In July, the United States imposed sanctions on Shia militia leaders responsible for human rights abuses, primarily against rival Sunni Muslims.

    Pence also commended Barzani and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for providing refuge for civilians threatened by conflict in recent years, the release said.

    Iraq, with a majority Shia Muslim population and Shia-led government, shares a religious bond with Iran, which is overwhelmingly Shia.

    As a result, Shia militias are allowed to operate openly in much of Iraq, prompting many Iraqi Sunnis to seek shelter in regions of the country under Kurdish control, according to Iraqi exiles living in the United States.

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    Tags:
    influence, Iran, Shia militias, Iraqi Kurdistan, Mike Pence, United States
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