Iraq aims to raise water sector investment -Min

* Minister says needs to spend more than $1 bln a year

* Says water is becoming a national security concern

* Seeks to share water with neighbouring nations

ABU DHABI, July 11 (Reuters)- Iraq needs to spend more than $1 billion a year to develop its water sector in the coming years as the war-battered country grapples with water shortages, Iraq’s minister for water resources said on Sunday.

Iraq has spent $1 billion each year since 2007 for water projects with funding from the government as well as soft loans from agencies in Japan, Italy and the World Bank, Abdullatif Jamal Rashid said.

The ministry of water resources has sought a higher budget.

“We will increase it,” Rashid told Reuters, declining to say by how much.

Water shortages still pose a big challenge for Iraq due to a rising population, depletion of resources, lack of rainfall, drought and advancing desertification, said Rashid.

“The water issue is becoming a national security concern, so it needs political will, and the government’s priority in future should be water and increased investment in water management,” he told the Arab Water Leaders Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Iraq is also seeking more cooperation from neighbouring countries in water sharing from rivers. Most of the supply comes from Turkey and some from Iran and Syria, he said.

“We have to come to proper agreements with countries to share water in a just manner. There is a lack of agreements,” he said without giving further details.

Iraq had accused its upstream neighbours Turkey and Syria of taking too much from the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and their tributaries, limiting water supplies to Iraq’s farmland.

Iraq is hopes that international governments would support laws for better water management and sharing, Rashid said. (Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Hans Peters)