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Iraqi PM, in call with Trump, requests end to travel ban

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attends a news conference in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed/Files

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked U.S. President Donald Trump to lift the ban on people from his country traveling to the United States, in the first phone call between the two leaders, the Iraqi government said on Friday.

“Mr. Trump stressed the importance of coordination to find a solution to this issue as soon as possible and that he will direct the U.S. State Department in this regard,” the government said in a statement, adding that it was the U.S. president who had initiated the call on Thursday.

Trump has said he will keep pushing to reinstate an executive order temporarily banning people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. A U.S. judge suspended the order last week and a court refused on Thursday an appeal to reinstate it.

Abadi resisted calls from influential pro-Iranian Shi’ite politicians to retaliate against the ban when it was first announced by Trump at the end of January, citing Iraq’s need for U.S. military support in the war on Islamic State.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Iraq to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces retake Mosul, the last city in Iraq under the militants’ control.

Trump told Abadi: “we will work together to defeat terrorism because Iraq is an ally of ours,” according to the Iraqi statement. “Dr. Abadi confirmed Iraq’s desire to strengthen relations with the U.S. at various levels,” it added.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Robin Pomeroy